Leaving No One Behind

Swadhina, our civil society organisation was invited to make a Presentation on Social Issues at an event in Kolkata. This was the final day of the week-long “YWCA-YMCA Week of Prayer, the annual programme of the two world-wide organisations. This was held at the Auditorium of YMCA Calcutta Auditorium. We had a small team – two Narrators, Smita Mukerji and Dipanwita Pal. Others were Supta, Smriti, Antariksh, Anangalekha and AyantikaThe narration of each issue was visually supported by a large Posters, raised aloft which helped the congregation to have a clarity on the issue. Here is the Presentation

Written by Srichandra, and, the photos are by Subhadip Mukerji.

“ Leaving No one Behind”

 Narrator:  Recently the movie ‘Pink’ was much in news. It spoke of equal rights of women, equal chances for women and equal voice for women. Suddenly “Pink” became the colour of empowerment of women and girls. It became the symbolism of an inclusive world – where the rules were same for all. But are we really living in a world that is free of discrimination? To bring forward the real situation, we present here: the colors of change…..

 Song1: Laal Neel Sobujer Mela Boseche (Its a colourful fair – full of red, blue, green)

 dsc_1943Narrator: RED. What does the color Red signify ? In the Indian context red symbolises marriage – a color of warmth and happiness. But ask Sonamoni. For her it is the symbol of dread, symbol of fear, symbol of social stigma. She is an AIDS victim. At the age of twelve she was sold to the red-light area. At the age of twenty she returned to her village, only to be denied medical care or even the basic requirements of food, water and shelter. And Sonamoni is not alone. Consider these facts:

– The estimated number of people living with HIV in India is 2.1 million in 2013 according to UN reports.

– India has the third largest population suffering from HIV/AIDS.

-It is estimated that 70,000 children below the age of 15 infected with 21,000 children being infected through mother-child transmission every year.

– Being one of the biggest driving forces behind social stigma, there have been cases of denial of access to food, using water from common wells or ponds, denial of treatment by hospitals as well as denial of studying in schools.

So, irrespective of the legal security the social truth is that there are thousands of AIDS victims facing a daily death due to our social exclusion. But, it is time we make a change. So what can we do ?

– If we know a person who is HIV positive we ensure that she gets proper treatment at the right place.

– We should not discriminate against anyone that we know having HIV – at schools, colleges, workplace.

– We have t build awareness at every level.

– And be inclusive enough to shake hands and share a warm hug with the one suffering from HIV/AIDS infection.

Let Red be the colour of Hope and Not of Stigma because how I treat my co human beings is how I treat God, and everything I do is a Gift to God.

Song 2: Everything I do is a Gift to God

dsc_1948Narrator: PINK. Pink has always meant a soft colour – a colour for the babies. It is also the colour of Breast Cancer Awareness. And today Pink symbolises the voice of women against violence, voice against suppression, voice against deprivation of health care, education, economic rights. She was 15 years when Lakshmi Aggarwal became a victim of acid attack when she rejected the advance of a man. She had to undergo seven major operations just for survival, leave alone her normal looks which has been damaged permanently. We have been fighting for a gender-equal world , a gender-equal country for a long time but what does the reality project ?

– According to 2015 survey cruelty by husbands and relatives under section 498‐A of Indian Penal Code is the major crime committed against women across the country, with 909,713 cases reported over the last 10 years which means 10 women tortured every hour.

– In year 2014 alone 1,22,877 reported cases of outraging of women’s modesty have been reported in a single year. And mind you, these are just officially reported cases.

– 82,235 rape case have been officially registered in one year in 2014. And there are many more unreported cases.

– 80, 833 cases of dowry related death have been recorded by the police within an year.

– 66% of women have reported some form of sexual harassment or the other in one year.

So, do we just sit back and gape at these reports? Do we just organise seminars and protest marches and then forget about it? No, we need to be proactive , we need to raise our voice.

– Report every case of violence against women that we know of and NO, it is not interference, it is being a responsible human-being.

– Bring up our children equally. If it is curfew time for 10 pm for your daughter, so it should be for your son. If it is a cricket bat for your son, why not for your daughter ?

– Raise your voice for better and women-friendly judicial system and One-stop crisis centres for women victims of violence.

– Build awareness and be aware about issues that affect women but are seldom discussed about – like breast cancer and cervical cancer.

It is time for women to shed social stigma and say ‘let it go’

Song 3: ‘Let it go’

dsc_1950Narrator: GREEN. What is the first thing that comes to mind when we think Green ? Yes, trees and plants. They are our life-givers. But when we say “leaving no one behind?”, do we really think about our environment ? Our trees, flora and fauna? But think about it. If we are moving forward towards development without thinking about our environment, we are only inviting doomsday. In New Delhi recently a near-state of total closure happened due to pollution. The pollution level was so high that inhaling the air was equivalent to intake of smoke of 33 cigarettes per day. And this was not all. Just think of these:

– Indian cities alone generate more than 100 million tons of solid waste a year.

-India is the third largest emitter of carbon dioxide, a major greenhouse gas, in 2009 at 1.65 Gt per year, after China and the United States.

– The WHO estimated in 2007 that air pollution causes half a million deaths per year in India.

– Over ten million people in India fell ill with waterborne illnesses in 2013 alone, and 1,535 people died, most of them children.

So, friends, isn’t it time that we become conscious citizens of this world ? Isn’t it time that we also think of our environment as we become developed nations ?

–  If you have a car, share it with others as a car pool so that there are less cars travelling at the same time. Also have the pollution emission checked regularly.

– Think Green. Act Green, For that – plant more trees – even if it means placing some little plants in your balcony.

– Build awareness at every level against usage of chemical pesticides.

– Remember and practice the three R s – Reduce, Reuse and Recycle when it comes to goods like plastic goods.

We HAVE to do this. Or, else a young sapling will shed it’s silent tears asking for it’s mother tree – ‘Kaara jeno poysha diye kiney nilo maakey’ (Someone bought my mother, by paying some money !)

Song 4: ‘Kaara jeno poysha diye’

dsc_1952Narrator: WHITE. The color white depicts serenity, purity, innocence. And as soon as we say ‘innocence’ we are compelled to think about children. They are God’s divine gift to mankind. But are we giving them equal opportunities to grow up in a blissful manner?

Mahinder was only of eight years old when his father almost ‘sold him’ to a tea stall owner. There he was physically abused daily for two years till he ran away. He then unknowingly joined a gang of petty criminals who in turn sexually abused him for years. Today Mahinder, who is twenty now, is a hardened criminal, languishing in jail.

But it is not Mahinder alone.

– A study report of Ministry of Women and Child Development in 2007 has pointed out that 69% of children between the ages of 5-12 have faced physical abuse of some form or the other.

– A study backed by the Indian Government on child sexual abuse have pointed out that 53% of the children in the sample said that they were subjected to one or more forms of sexual abuse and of which 20% were severe and serious forms of abuse.

– It is estimated that 47% of the marriages happening in India are child marriages with the age of the bride being below 18 years. The figure is 69% and 65% in Bihar and Rajasthan respectively.

– Nearly 12 million children in India are married before the age of ten and of them about 44% are illiterate.

But as co-humans we must ensure that the foundation of our tomorrow is safe and for that it is essential to ensure a safer world for children. So, what can we do?

–  Ensure education for children, even if she is not from my family. If we have the capability we must provide for the education for those who cannot afford.

– Report every case of violence and child abuse. Socially shun the shopkeeper who uses child labourer. Report the incident to police.

– If you hear of any incidence of child marriage or child abuse, do not hesitate to intervene.

– Be careful and aware of any change in behaviour of a child known to you. Talk to her. She may be a silent victim of abuse.

We MUST make this world free of any forms of violence and abuse for children so that they may say loudly : We are the world , we are the children.

Song 5: ‘We are the world’

dsc_1962Narrator: BLACK. The mere mention of the word evokes a sense of hatred, disgust and discrimination. Black equals discrimination and discrimination equals black. M.T.Oliva was minutes away from his birthday. Thinking of his family back home, the twenty three year old African student was walking back to his temporary home in Vasant Kunj area in New Delhi. Following an argument with local men after some racist comments, the young African was killed with stones and sticks. And it was just one of the many incidents of racist hatred that young Africans face each day all around the work.

If someone is different from our socially set norms of ‘beautiful’ we exhibit a sense of disgust.

– We talk about unity and equality but still refer to our friends from Arunachal, Assam or Sikkim as ‘Chinkies’ and Africans are always ‘blackies’ for us.

– So much disgust there is about the dark skin color in Indian mind-set that Fairness Creams have the largest share in skin care sector, recording a steady growth of 15-20% every year.

– Dark skin has been considered as one of the strong reasons for increased dowry demands.

But ‘leaving no one behind’ needs an acceptance of all as one – without any discrimination or prejudice. So,

– Stop referring to and discourage others to refer to someone as a ‘blackie’, ‘nigger’ or ‘chinky’ merely on the basis of how they look.

– Believe in the fact that everyone is a creation of God and an insult to His creation is an insult of God himself.

–  Make every young person aware that her skin colour is her own asset and she should be proud of it.

– And for heaven’s sake, Stop advertising for or seeking  a ‘fair, slim, good-looking’  bride.

Remember, the Sun shines for all – without discrimantion, the moon soothes all- without discrimination and the stars twinkle – without discrimination. Believe that : Hum ek hai : We are all One.

Song 6: ‘Hum ek hai’

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