Prajnya 16 Days Campaign Against Gender Violence 2008


November 25

November 28

November 28 (2)

November 29

November 30

December 2 a
December 2 b
December 3

Campaign Announcer Release, November 23, 2008 (PDF)

Prajnya to kick-off 16-day campaign against gender violence
Chennai to host series of activities and events across the city (Nov 25-Dec 10)

Chennai, November 17, 2008: ‘The Prajnya 16 Days Campaign Against Gender Violence’ seems all set to take Chennai by storm. Plays, seminars, competitions, workshops, documentary screenings, book exhibition will be held across colleges and public spaces – all focusing on raising awareness in the different ways women in particular are vulnerable to violence, whether in their homes or other zones of conflict.

The events will be held from November 25 to December 10, 2008. (Schedule attached)

The events and initiatives of the Campaign have been planned and arranged in partnership and support with a number of organizations across Chennai.

Some hallmarks of the campaign are:
A broad, inclusive, structural and human rights approach to gender-based violence
Partnerships that forge a network for action
Diversity of audiences, from the campus to corporates to civil society organizations
Multiple media and programme formats

Prajnya, a non-profit think-tank based in Chennai, came into being in 2006 to work in areas related to peace, justice and security. Swarna Rajagopalan, Managing Trustee of Prajnya says, “Gender violence shrinks an expansive universe into a small fenced field full of landmines for women. This campaign, which is part of Prajnya’s public educational outreach work, raises this issue from various angles, in a wide range of settings and with both engaged groups and those who may not have given it any thought before.”

It is evident from the response received from citizens that this cause has many supporters. Nirupama Sarathy, Campaign Coordinator says, "The response from colleges, corporates, the media and NGOs has been encouraging. They have come forward to support the campaign and say NO to gender violence through the various events and programmes across the 16 days. Ultimately our goal is for people to take ownership of this cause and spread the message."

While the Campaign’s own financial base consists largely of individual contributions from Rs 101 onwards, professionals from a variety of fields have taken time out to help. Some partners have also raised funds for specific events and initiatives.


Report on First day’s event of the Prajnya’s 16 day campaign against gender violence (PDF)

November 25, 3008

The Prajnya 16 day campaign against gender violence kicked off with the intercollegiate oratorical competitions on “Women’s Rights are Human Rights”. The assigned topics were: "Gender violence, a silent killer," "Violence against women is violence against society" and "Gender violence violates human rights."

K. Rizwana Banu of Bharathi Women's College easily swept aside the competition with her combination of a well-researched, well-written and beautifully delivered speech on "Violence against women is violence against society." She took home a trophy for her college and a prize worth Rs. 1000. At second place, was V. Saradha of Women's Christian College. All participants were awarded certificates of recognition.

It was Rony Chandy of Madras Christian College who won the English Oratorical with a powerful presentation on the need to take cognizance of the economic, psychological and political impact of gender violence. Apart from the cash prize he carried back atrophy for his college. The second prize went to Thairyam of Loyola College.

The Prajnya 16 Days Campaign Intercollegiate Oratorical Competition in Tamil was organized in partnership with the Department of Tamil, Queen Mary's College, Chennai.
The participants came from Presidency College, Women's Christian College, Bharathi Women's College, M.O.P. Vaishnav College for Women and Queen Mary's College.

Dr. Ramu Manivannan of the University of Madras, Professor Amal of Loyola College Media Arts Department and Dr. Tamilselvi of the Queen Mary's College Tamil Department served as judges. The prizes were given away by Professor Pakkianathan, the acting Principal of Queen Mary's College.

The Department of foundation Course, Loyola College partnered with Prajnya for the English Oratorical competition. At the Lawrence Sundaram auditorium at Loyola College 10 young men speaking on various aspects of gender violence and the need to realize that women’s rights are not separate form human rights.

The judges for the event were Dr. Chitra Krishnan, Department of English and Foreign languages, University of Madras and Mr. K. Hariharan, Director L V Prasad Film and TV academy, Mr. Hariharan awarded the winners while Dr. Chitra gave away the trophy to MCC College.

A good beginning!

K. Rizwana Banu of Bharathi Women's College receiving the first prize trophy in Tamil oratorical competition.

Rony Chandy and Mark Gideon of MCC receiving the winning trophy for the English oratorical competition.


Report on poetry reading (PDF)

November 28, 2008

Day 4 of Prajnya’s 16 Days Campaign against Gender Violence saw a reading of select poems on women by contemporary women poets, who are uniquely located at the intersection of art, feminism and truth telling. “Woman, may you grow to be a Banyan tree!”, an evening of poetry with contemporary women poets Krishnagini, K. Srilatha, Sukiertha Rani & Vatsala was organized by Prajnya in association with the Odyssey book store on November 28,2008 between 5 and 630 pm.

Most of the poems centred around the different ways in which women in particular are vulnerable to violence, from their homes to zones of conflict. The “rope” that becomes symbolic of one woman’s way of coping with domestic abuse a poem by Vatsala, the story if serene “Kamalamma” who worked in an NGO by Srilatha, Ladies Compartment” by Krishangini that captures the fragments of women’s lives, and the very act of poetry writing as liberating by Sukeirtha Rani were some of the poems that were recited.

The politics of poetry, the activist role that poets could play, their convictions, sharing pf common experiences, reactions to things around them and poetry as reflective space were some of the aspects that came up in the post reading discussion with members in the audience and the poets.

Sukiertha Rani speaks as Vatsala, Srilatha and Krishangani look on at the poetry reading at Odyssey.


The Prajnya 16 day campaign against gender violence rescheduled dates

November 28, 2008

Day 2 (November 26th) : Collage has been rescheduled for December 8th, 2008 at 5 city colleges

Day 3 (November 27th) :Film seminar/screening to be held at Alliance is rescheduled for December 2nd, 2008 and will be held at L V Prasad Film & TV Academy, Saligramam.

The other events will proceed as scheduled and at the same venues.


Day 5 of Prajnya’s 16 day campaign against gender violence (PDF)

November 29, 2008

The theatre workshop organized by the Prajnya Trust, Confederation of Indian industries (CII) and the Marappacchi Trust on 29th November was all about “Exploring gender through theatre”. Theater director, writer and activist Mangai put the participants through their paces in emphasizing the hidden discriminations and inequalities in the gender terrain.

Physical gestures, loud noises and copying animals, were some of the aspects that were explored in the theater workshop as part of the Prajnya 16 Days campaign against gender violence. What started off as an introduction session moved on to be a full-fledged characterization of various genders.

Exercises brought about an understanding of the inherent traits and roles played by male, female and the transgender, the stereotypical images people have of the three genders, the unequal distribution of jobs and gender roles and the internalizing process of such oppressive thoughts.

The theater workshop encapsulated various aspects of gender and positive and negative discrimination of the same. The discussion which took place during the day helped to understand the basic aspects of gender and was also helpful in bringing to light various theories based on gender. The informal and positive atmosphere and proactive working culture helped in discussing intimate aspects of such an issue.

The take back from this workshop ranged from aspects such as integrity, sensitivity and understanding at a personal level to mobilizing people and thoughts for collective action. The varied participant group from students of different colleges, professionals from CII, Scope International, to volunteers from Prajnya, enabled depolarizing of perspectives on this single issue.

Mangai training the participants.

Participants enacting a scene from the Mahabharata.


Action Sunday (PDF)

November 30, 2008

Eleven women turned action heroes on a Sunday afternoon, defying unwritten societal norms and breaking their own inhibitions to experience new-found confidence and freedom. This action was part of Step-by-Step: street action against sexual harassment, a joint event by Blank Noise Chennai and The Prajnya Trust as part of the Prajnya 16 days Campaign Against Gender Violence.

Gathering at Spencer Plaza for a quick briefing, the women set out in different directions walking from the Phase 3 Atrium to the Phase 1 atrium, interrupted by periods of freezes, where one just stood and gazed. The innovative 'action' consisted of a bunch of women walking very slowly, walking in the middle of the passage, walking alone, walking smiling, walking looking at passersby, walking swinging your arms, walking humming a song or walking without your arms folded… and doing all the seemingly simple things that you wouldn't normally do while alone in a public place, just because you were a woman. In short, the action urged women to reclaim their space in the public space and walk unapologetically.

As expected, the action did draw the attention of curious onlookers as well as the security staff at the Spencer Plaza, who initially objected. But who can stop a bunch of women from walking around and simply claiming the freedom that is rightfully their own? The action continued and culminated in the women reading out the Step by Step Guide to Unapologetic Walking and urging other women to do the same.

Other than the variety of responses it evoked from the onlookers and passersby, the participant women shared that they found this to be "a very liberating experience". The comfort with the divide between personal and public spaces for women was broken deliberately. As one of them said, "For the first time, I was okay with attracting attention rather than forever trying to avoid it." Another added, "This was the first time that I actually looked into people's eyes and consciously observed how men and women behave differently in the same space. Otherwise, we are so tuned in to it that we often involuntarily retract into our regular defences." The group also shared other disturbing and liberating experiences and made a collective decision not to take it lying down anymore.

Chennai action heroes – volunteers from Prajnya team, Blank Noise team and other young ladies walking unapologetically at Spencer Plaza on 30.12.08

Two men tying ‘Because I care’ ribbons at Okapi, Sri Lanka Trade Centre of Spencer Plaza

Chennai action heroes reading out the step-by-step guide to unapologetic walking at Spencer Plaza


A Safe Workspace without Discrimination (PDF)

December 2, 2008

CII and Prajnya organized a workshop, 'Creating Safer Workspaces,' as part of the Prajnya 16 Days Campaign against Gender Violence on December 2, 2008 at the Accord Metropolitan in Chennai.

The workshop began with a moment's silence in memory of the heroes and victims of the Mumbai terror attacks. The inaugural session drew attention to the importance of addressing gender violence issues across the board and placed the workshop in the context of the Prajnya 16 Days Campaign against Gender Violence. Gender violence as described as power-play and the workplace as an arena for this power-play. The speakers were Nalini Krishnan, Chairman of the Corporate Social Responsibility Sub-Committee of the Confederation of Indian Industries, and Swarna Rajagopalan, Managing Trustee of Prajnya.

Sandhya Rao led the workshop. She is an experienced trainer on workplace issues and one of the founders of Hengasara Hakkina Sangha, which is arguably India's leading NGO specializing in the areas of policy, law and governance relating to workplace sexual harassment.

The workshop began by exploring the various meanings, understandings and experiences of 'discrimination' and 'gender.' Comparative equality, formal and substantive. were identifed as the hallmarks of a safe workplace. Unfair practices, denial of opportunity, gender-insensitive benefits detract from such an ideal. The session recalled the UN definition of discrimination as anything prevents people from attaining their full potential.

Following this discussion, a Forum Theatre exercise was carried out by the participants where they described work-place discrimination. They were subsequently divided into groups and asked to discuss the question, "What kind of workplace environment would you create to have a safer workplace?"

In response, the participants presscribed attitudinal change at both an individual and organizatioanl level. Mentoring, role models, diversity training and counselling could contribute to this process. The behavioural goal was to create a non-discriminatory space from before recruitment onwards. One-on-one meetings, awareness programmes, discussion groups might contribute to the latter.

The workshop culminated in a panel discussion to brainstorm what has worked and what has not in a variety of settings. The panelists were Gayatri Shriram (industrialist), Vijay Nagaswami (counsellor), Nalini Rao (Social worker and educator); Shantha Kamath (psychiatrist); Saras Bhaskar (psychologist); S. Shivakumar (journalist); MDV Kumaraswamy (Management professional).

Each of them brought to the panel perspectives gleaned from research and managerial experience. Dr. Nagaswami advocated the definition and recognition of one's boundaries as an element of a safe workspace, a process that should begin as early as school. Peer support and counselling was another element. Organizations should provide counselling and referral services. They should commit to following the Visakha judgment guidelines to setting up and implementing redressal procedures for sexual harrassment. The importance of a 'code of conduct' that is mandatory and implemented and of access to women's organizations and support groups within the organization were stressed. Discrimination and tolerance of sexual harrassment should come to regarded as bad business practice, panelists and participants agreed. It was strongly suggested that the top management of companies should be invited to such workshops and not just human resources managers. Similarly, this session stressed that small and medium enterprises needed to be engaged with this issue as much as the large corporates who were in attendance at the workshop (Caterpillar, Ford, TCS, Sathyam and Scope, for instance).


Films need to open space for a gender discourse (PDF)

December 2, 2008


Panel on gender violence, gender violence and the police (PDF)

December 3, 2008


Reporting Gender Violence Media Workshop at Loyola College (PDF)

December 4, 2008


When the safety of the haven is breached... (PDF)

December 5, 2008


Walking in solidarity (PDF)

December 7, 2008


December 8 was a full day (PDF)

December 8, 2008


Report on Pointblank: A debate on media representations of women and gender violence (PDF)

December 9, 2008


Report on public lecture - the valedictory event of Prajnya's 16 Days Campaign against Gender Violence (PDF)

December 10, 2008