Inspiring young change makers to fight inequality
India / Freedom for Equality / 8 may 2018
Women in India face violence and discrimination every day as a result of harmful attitudes and assumptions around their role in society. One in three girls are married as children, 92% of women have experienced sexual harassment and an incident of domestic abuse is reported every five minutes. A stark indicator of how boys and men are valued more than women and girls in society is the prevalence of gender biased sex selection. This has led to a sex ratio of 919 girls to 1000 boys across the country, predominantly through sex selective abortions.
Breakthrough seeks to make discrimination and violence against women and girls unacceptable everywhere and in all its forms, including domestic violence, sexual harassment in public spaces, early marriage, and gender-biased sex selection. Through a mix of social media, pop culture and multimedia campaigns, they challenge the deeply held cultural norms that they see as the root of the problem.
In addition to mass media and online campaigns, billboards and TV adverts across India, Breakthrough goes into the communities where discrimination and violence are occurring every day to engage with girls, boys, men and women to challenge their perceptions and together, find solutions. They particularly focus on school age children from 11 to 18 – empowering girls to aspire to finish education, delay marriage and dream of a more equitable future. They focus on creating youth clubs called Gang of Stars where girls and boys learn about their rights, negotiation skills, and take action against gender-based discrimination and violence. They recognise the power of storytelling, whether this is through media campaigns or on the ground theatre workshops, to challenge assumptions about gender that contribute to girls and women having less worth, opportunity, and agency than boys and men.
In communities, Breakthrough India shows thought-provoking videos through the use of “video-vans”, which provide mobile outdoor cinemas that can easily move from village to village. They also put on plays in schools or in public areas to inform people about violence against women, and the ways to eradicate it. After these screenings or performances, members of the organisation discuss the sensitive topics covered in the art performances. Their long-term goal is to create an enabling environment where girls are valued, safe spaces are created for them and the community support their dreams and endeavours.
After participating in a Breakthrough programme at his school, Ajay (name changed), decided to use the lessons he had learnt about gender discrimination to make a change in his own family. He found he could clearly relate what he had seen in the session to how his parents treated him and his sister differently at home. He found, for example, that he was never punished for coming home late whereas his sister was often beaten if she did. Ajay’s determination to make change bore results, and he was able to convince his father that him and his sister deserved equal treatment. Ajay became an agent of change by raising his voice.
Breakthrough is boldly challenging the roots of inequality by focusing on the attitudes and assumptions that create harmful behaviour. Their storytelling tools of immersive theatre, film and social media campaigning invite people to challenge their beliefs and engrained behaviour and become active change makers for equality.