“EVEN MEN NEED TO BE LIB­ER­ATED”

India Today - - GOOD NEWS - HAR­ISH SADANI, 50 Gen­der rights ac­tivist, co-founder, Men Against Vi­o­lence and Abuse

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

DANESH JASSAWALA

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