By Ramesh Advani
At the Roosevelt Hotel in New York City there was a landmark event this past weekend and Saheli was honored to have been invited to speak and share our Men Against Violence Initiative with the conferees. It was the International Conference on Masculinities organized by The Center for the Study of Men and Masculinities at Stony Brook University, partnering with the American Men’s Studies Association, MenEngage and Man Up. The subject of the Conference was “Engaging Men and Boys for Gender Equality”. This was held to coincide with the 2015 International Women’s Day which also just observed. This was done to support gender equality around issues as diverse as HIV risk reduction, boys development, violence against women, supporting women’s reproductive health and rights, and supporting expressions of fatherhood. There were over 600 participants at the conference from many countries and e were especially heartened to meet male leaders and activists from India who spoke of positive men led programs and activities that have been sparked and have taken hold especially after the Nirbhaya tragedy of 2012.
Saheli had submitted a proposal for a panel discussion on the topic of “Saheli Boston’s Men Against Violence Campaign: Community-Based Male Engagement in the South Asian diaspora”. The 3 member panel was headed by Ramesh Advani, our MAV Lead, Joya Banerjee, volunteer leader and Craig Norberg-Bohm, Men’s Program Lead from our local leader organization – Jane Doe Inc., who inspired us to start our program. Our proposal was accepted from several hundreds and we had a great discussion in our session. Joya provided details of Saheli’s work, Craig spoke of what Jane Doe’s White Ribbon Campaign does with affiliated like us and I outlined the 3 major projects we have got planned for 2015 – raising community awareness through community groups, sports events for motivational action with men and boys and education focus in colleges and high schools. We also picked up interesting ideas that we could use in our work that are being used very successfully with young men and boys! I also think workshops can be held for adult men who live traditional lives with their wives playing the usual home chores game. These men could also be made to think about the influence they actions or inactions have on their children, nothing to do with violence but gender equality challenges.