“It’s not okay to not intervene”

Harshad and Shubham are active participants of Action for Equality Programme who think it’s important to take some action against any form of gender-based violence and discrimination around us. As one of them points out, “if we don’t try to change our society for better, who will?” They have stood up against gender-based violence and are now influencing their peers and immediate surroundings through their actions. Read their stories here.

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17 year old Shubham says “as long as we’re just being passive bystanders as a society when we see acts of violence, we cannot move forward”. He says that to be a gender-equitable society, the change needs to start within ourselves and the immediate community around us.

Shubham has been living in the Gadgoba community in Pune with his family for a long time and he says “although the community is fairly peaceful, an act of violence is not an uncommon sight”. On a quiet evening when Shubham heard noises from his uncle’s house, who lives next door, he rushed to find his uncle who under the influence of alcohol was beating his wife and kids. Shubham immediately tried to stop it. “I did not think of anything. I don’t think I had the time to. I knew it in my heart that I have to stop it. That’s all! How can a man beat up his own wife and children”. While the man paused because of Shubham’s intervention, but he continued the violence after a few minutes. “I tried  to stop him again by shouting at him., but it didn’t work. So I got in between him and his family to stop him. By this time, a few people also gathered at the house. My uncle calmed down because of the presence of the others.”

Shubham adds “It’s not the first time I am seeing something like that. I have seen such acts before too. But I just didn’t have the courage to do anything about it. I was scared. But the Action for Equality programme transformed me in a lot of ways. I wasn’t scared when I was intervening at this incident. I know it’s the right thing to do and there’s nothing to be afraid of”. Shubham is currently an alumni of our programme. He recently finished the Leadership programme and still actively takes part in our activities.

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“If we don’t try to change our society for better, who else will? It is our society, isn’t it?”

Harshad, a  calm, sincere and honest boy is one of the participants of the Action for Equality programme. He resides in Tadiwala Road community in Pune along with his three sisters and his mother. When his father passed away two years ago, their family had to relocate to Pune. “He was very worried and aggressive when his father passed away” his mother recalls. “He was also very aloof. He always kept himself distant from the family matters, and never helped with any chores either.”

She says, “nobody looks at me as a mother or a widow. When men see me, they see a woman who is available. And at work, the people working alongside me belittle my work and disrespect me. My social standing is an excuse for them to brand me and misbehave with me. When I spoke of this to Harshad, he patiently explained to me how I have rights and how they were being denied to me through these actions of others. He asked me to patiently go and speak up the next time they had something to comment on me. Earlier, I was very scared of these men and I had only tried to escape the situation. When I tried what Harshad told me, all my fear melted away. I walked up to a man who was making inappropriate comments at me and asked his what his problem was. He was so ashamed and taken aback by me actually approaching him and asking him calmly, that he said sorry and hurried off. I realised that day that I had been unnecessarily legitimizing such harassment by blaming my circumstances and not aiming at putting an end to it.”

Harshad’s mother told us that she had noticed a very drastic change in him after joining the Action for Equality programme. He has become more sensitive. He has also started sharing responsibilities in the house. He gave a lot of support to his mother in confronting the harassers. “How long will we run from these situations? We have to stand up and voice out against these men to bring change in the society” Harshad told his mother.

“He told me not to fear these men, that society will change only when we are willing to change”, says his mother, proudly. “My son has shown his sisters and me how to stand up for our rights and freedom”.

15 year old Harshad joined the programme at a very crucial time of his life, and has completely transformed within the few months and is impacting a positive change on his family. He has started getting involved in domestic chores too.