“EVEN MEN NEED TO BE LIBERATED”
Harish Sadani has reached out to 80,000 young men and 20,000 young women through his landmark initiative, getting them to re-examine masculinity and question patriarchy through workshops, plays, camps and poetry sessions.
Iwas volunteering at a women’s rights organisation as a young man when I realised how small a part men seemed to play in the discourse on gender equality. Men would be ostracised, their faces blackened. Was this the way ahead, I wondered. Doesn’t a person belonging to the ‘oppressor’ class/caste/gender have a role in the class/caste/ gender struggle? Changing a man’s perspective is just as important as the empowerment of women, and they need not be mutually exclusive agendas. If we want to reach a truly gender equitable stage, the important thing would be to engage with young boys and men on issues of gender-based violence and discrimination and to deconstruct and redefine masculinity. Talk of a need for a change in the male mindset was, and continues to be, rampant; but how would you do that without engagement with the male community?
Born and raised in a chawl (community housing) in Mumbai, I often observed abuse and oppression against the women in the neighbourhood. I lived in a large joint family, which included an extremely sensitive father and three paternal aunts, who played a huge role in shaping my perspective on women. Doing the household chores would earn me nicknames—sissy, girlish—but I never took it personally. Instead, I remember thinking they were teasing me because they believed what women did at home was not respectable and had no value.
In 1993, I co-founded Men Against Violence and Abuse. I found that in both urban and rural areas, adolescent boys and young men are desperately in need of a safe platform to express themselves regarding problems