16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence


“You can be one of the five daughters of Zelophehad or can support them…..” – Hungreiphy engages in Advocacy for Indigenous Women’s Rights to Inheritance of Ancestral Property on ‘Human Rights Day’

Hungreiphy ZAS Zimik Young Indigenous Baptist woman Theologian

As the world commemorates ‘Human Rights Day‘ on 10th December  ‘Hungreiphy ZAS Zimik a young Baptist indigenous theologian  shares her story  and efforts to promote ‘Women’s Rights are Human Rights and ‘Indigenous Women Right to Inheritance of  Ancestral Property’.  Zimik states “I am indigenous woman and belong to Tangkhul Naga Tribe  from Ukhrul District in  Hungpung Village in state of  Manipur in India. My immediate family consist of six members i.e. my mother, father, two brothers, me and my sister.  Tangkhul  indigenous society is a classless society and forbids any kind of unreasonable discrimination among the members of the tribe. However there are certain areas guided by indigenous customary laws where the principle of ‘Rights to Equality’ of men and women cannot be strictly applied.

Tangkhul  tribe women are not allowed to participate in the decision making process of the village till date. They are not given recognition as members of the Village Assembly. Tangkhul women are also prohibited to become Village Councillors even though Government of India and our constitution allows equality. No Tangkhul village has a woman Village Councillor till date. Thus, the general expression ‘Equality before Law’ has got no central place for women in my tribe.

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‘Blue-ing’ Our Churches & Communities : National Council of Churches invitation this Advent to End Child Abuse

‘Blue-ing’ Churches & Communities, 16 Days of Activism Campaign @NCCI ( Photo Source www.boston.archive )

On 28th November 2017, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) in India requested for valuable suggestions to end child abuse in the context of increasing abuse of violence on children in India. Stuti  Kacker Chairperson of NCPCR in her request letter of 28th November 2017 states: “Sexual crime against children is showing an alarming increase and there is urgent need to tackle this problem on a war footing. Parliament has already brought a comprehensive Act namely ‘The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012 to punish those who commit sexual offences against children. However, there is a pressing need to formulate a broad based strategy to prevent such crime from occurring, which is only possible if all stakeholders namely children themselves, their parents, school administration, law enforcement agencies, NGOs and civil society etc. as a whole, create awareness and highlight the moral repugnancy of such crimes.”

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Gender Equity Enabling Timetable (GEET) of Church of South India Removing Bottlenecks to Build Just Inclusive Communities

Mission Paradigm Shift from Equality to Equity to Promote Gender Justice & Build Just Inclusive Communities

Women’s empowerment programs have been at the core of the ‘Diaconal Ministry’ of the Church of South India. According to Revd Asir Ebenezer- Director of Diaconal  Concerns- CSI Synod “these programs have taken many forms in different contexts. Education, empowerment, and economic livelihood options were some of the areas that took root in most places. Education of girls was the flagship of church’s education ministry. Many hostels for girls as well as nursing and teacher training schools for young women were started and flourish to this day.”  CSI also initiated the ‘Girl Child Campaign’. Ebenezer further states “However despite a radically sound theology and a reformist mind with regard to gender sensitivity, there are many bottlenecks. The aim of the discourse on gender equity is to reach beyond the domain of women and their associations. There is a vital need for gender mainstreaming to end gender based violence.  So GEET  brings the discourse to the mainstream life and witness of  Church Women and Men. The present visible leadership of males in the church sphere is to be challenged to bring significant changes.”

Gender Equity Enabling Timetable (CSI-GEET) –   Has three foci:

 1) Workplace- To ensure a safe working space, institutions of the CSI are oriented on  awareness , prevention, and redressal of sexual harassment of women at workplace  promoting ‘Prevention, Prohibition & Redressal Act, 2013’ . Ebenezer states that many christian  institutions have constituted an Internal Complaints Committee  in compliance with the Act. After the constitution of ‘Internal Complaints Committees’ in our institutions, male staff have become more sensible in their interactions with their female colleagues. Women are aware that they can be treated with dignity and do not have to ‘adjust’ or put up with inappropriate behaviour from the opposite sex.”

2) Homes including Christian Homes –  CSI is also engaging in various endeavours of spiritual formation  to  create safe home free from abuse and empowering both men and women to work towards ending domestic violence and other gender based violence within home .

 3) Mind of the Man for Nurturing Gender Equity– Developing contextualised study material based on ‘Created in God’s image: from Hegemony to Partnership’ (a church’s manual on men as partners promoting positive masculinities was published by WCRC in collaboration with the WCC and the United Methodist Church) to be studied by men in five locations in each of the 24 CSI Dioceses.

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From Chilli Powder to Rights & Justice Oriented Education- Vaccine of Gender Based & Sexual Violence- Jessica Borgoary Promote 16 Days Activism Campaign

Jessica Borgoary Promoting 16 Days Activism Campaign

When I was in school I watched a Hindi film know as ‘ Mirch Masala’ ( Chilli Powder) The film was directed by Ketan Mehta. It starred Naseruddin Shah and Smita Patil in the lead roles. The film is set in colonial in the early 1940s. The plot begins with an arrogant Indian local tax collector and with his henchmen exploiting villagers. The tax collector and his men were harassing women . The village headman who was not strong to oppose him even supplied him with women from the village for his pleasure. No one had courage to protest against such violence.

However the story takes a different turn when the tax collector boldly asks Sonbai a young woman from the village for sexual favours, and harassed  her. Enraged, Sonabai, in an act of defense,  slaps the tax collector. She then had to flee immediately with the soldiers and henchmen in hot pursuit.She takes refuge in a spice factory where red chillies are grounded into powder. The women of the village worked here. Sonabai and the women were supported by a watchman and male school teacher who strategize to end such violence.

Sonabai organized women in the factory and when the tax collector and his men raided the factory the women in factory mount a sudden and surprising defense. They attack the tax collector with freshly ground red chilli powder in teams of two. The film ends with the tax collector on his knees, screaming in pain as the chilli burns his face and eyes.

The situation of women and girls being ‘eve teased’, bullied, harassed and sexually abused has not changed in India. In fact such violence has increased. Now when women  are no longer confined within homes and are out in the world,  they face harassment and abuse schools, colleges and workplaces. 

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“Violence on Women & Girls Betrays the Teachings of Jesus”- Rev Dr Roger Gaikwad, General Secretary of NCCI Promoting White Ribbon Campaign

Rev Dr Roger Gaikwad – General secretary NCCI promoting White Ribbon Campaign

Men and Boys should take action to end men’s gender based violence on women and girls” states Rev Dr Roger Gaikwad – General Secretary of National Council of Churches in India” ‘Towards Just and Inclusive Communities’ is NCC India’s Quadrennial Theme 2016-2020. Rev Dr Gaikwad states “We cannot build just and inclusive communities unless we seriously address the issue of violence on women and girls in India.”

Gender based violence and sexual violence has become pandemic in India. India 4th dangerous country in the world for women to live and girl child to survive. 53 percent of children in India face sexual abuse. Times of India reports every 20 minutes a woman or girl is raped in India. India witnesses one of the highest female infanticide incidents in the world as revealed in a first ever global study on female infanticide by Asian Centre for Human Rights, a Delhi-based NGO in 2016. The BBC reports about once every five minutes an incident of domestic violence is reported in India, under its legal definition of ‘cruelty by husband or his relatives.’

Gaikwad further states that “The sign of hope is some of our member churches and church leaders are engaging in various forms of ministry to end violence on women and girls. However we need to understand empowerment of women and girls alone is not solution to this problem. Men and boys can play crucial role to end gender based and sexual violence. Gender justice, gender equality and gender equity is not ‘women’s issue’ alone. We need to empower men and boys also regarding gender justice so that they understand the scale of the problem, and become part of the solution, alongside women. If women are empowered alone and not men violence on women will increase more”

Restrictive gender roles and stereotyped gender norms harm men as well as women, boys as well as girls though girls are more vulnerable. . Men and boys have a crucial role to play in creating a culture where male violence, abuse and harassment against women and girls are simply seen as unacceptable. Men also need to support survivors of gender based violence take a stand against gender violence in their workplaces, schools, communities and families.

In 2015 during Quadrennial Assembly of ‘All India Council of Christian Women’ (at present known as Women’s Concern Ministry of NCCI ) Rev Dr Gaikwad promoted ‘White Ribbon Campaign’. He invited men church heads and leaders to take action against violence on women and girls in their own home, church or society.

Church Heads Promoting White Ribbon Campaign during Women’s Assembly in Kerala 2015

The White Ribbon Campaign (WRC) is a global movement of men and boys working to end male violence against women and girls. It was formed by a group men in Canada in November 1991 as a response to the École Polytechnique massacre of female students who was shot dead by Marc Lépine . The campaign was intended to raise awareness about the prevalence of male violence against women. White Ribbon symbolizing “the idea of men giving up their arms and violence.” This campaign is active in many counties in the world. ‘White Ribbon Campaign’ is a the movement that seeks to promote healthy relationships, gender equity, and a compassionate vision of masculinity

Rev Dr Gaikwad opines “Discrimination and violence on women, girls and children betrays the teaching of Jesus. Jesus broke the silence regarding culture of gender based in his society . Jesus showed the world compassion to women and girls through positive masculinity as opposed to patriarchal masculinity. Hence it is prophetic duty of the church to promote such positive masculinity and empower men and boys to end violence on women and girls .”

In 2015 National Council of Churches launched ‘365 Zero Tolerance to Gender Based Violence: Make it Happen Now Campaign: Make it Happen Now !’ NCCI also conducts various Capacity Enhancement and Human Rights Training in partnership with member churches and ecumenical partners to promote gender mainstreaming. ‘Certificate Course for Gender Justice’ is one such initiative of Women’s Concerns Ministry is to train pastors and lay leader ,youth ,community leaders both male and female.

As we commemorate ‘16 Days of Activism Against Violence on Women and Girls Rev Dr Roger Gaikwad invites churches, congregations and individuals “TAKE ACTION NOW. DO NOT REMAIN SILENT REGARDING GENDER BASED VIOLENCE ,SEXUAL ABUSE OF WOMEN , GIRLS AND CHILDREN .”

#16 Days Activism @ NCCI

Reported by Moumita Biswas – Executive Secretary – Women Concerns Ministry – National Council of Churches in India

‘Because I am Precious in God’s Eyes – I will Not Keep Silent about Gender Based Violence – Shyreeti Daveena Shares her Story

Shyreeti Daveena

The colour of my skin is black and I love my body. My mother says my eyes are dark and bright as the doe and I am lovely. But yet I faced discrimination in school because of my body and colour of my skin by my teachers and peers. Though majority of Indians have brown, dark brown and dark skin yet women and girls with lighter skin are regarded beautiful.

Whenever there was school function, plays or dance drama the fairer and thinner girls were given chance to be main characters in the play or dance drama. Talent was not the criteria of selection. Girls like me with darker skin were discriminated and not given opportunities. However boys with darker skin did not share the same plight as girls.  Dark skinned boys were regarded as handsome. I always felt rejected. I lost self confidence, had low self esteem and I became an introvert person. This affected my academic performance in school. Teachers ridiculed me and called me ‘dumb’. My teachers failed to realize psychological abuse and discrimination is also a form of gender based violence.

Even  now when I go  for my tuition classes  many boys tease me calling me names like  ‘Kalla Khatta’ ( Black and Sour), ‘Moti Kali’ ( Black fat woman ) and even use sexist language. Eve teasing is quite common phenomenon in India and culture of gender based violence exists in our country.

It took me a long time to gain back my confidence which was broken by my teachers in school. My parents helped me to gain my confidence as they reminded me ‘I am beautiful created in image of God’. My involvement in various Sunday School and youth group activities in our church helped me to discover my own leadership qualities and talents.  Galatians 3:38 inspired me “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”Today I am proud of who I am.

There are many like me in India who face discrimination because of stereotyped gender norms which moulds minds of people and culture. In India girls with darker skin becomes often burden for their parents. In an arranged marriage system which still prevails in India parents have to pay more dowry during marriage for their daughters with darker skin.

The media also portrays women with lighter skin and thin body as beautiful. Whitening creams have been promoted through racist advertising. For years, advertisers of skin-lightening creams and other products have shown people — mostly women — with dark skin as having problems when it comes to finding jobs, getting married and generally being accepted by society. The makers of these advertisement include behemoths like Unilever, Johnson & Johnson and Proctor & Gamble . The so-called ‘Fairness Cream’ industry in India is booming .There is even a fairness cream named ‘ Fair and Lovely’.  I strongly believe advertising should not communicate any discrimination as a result of skin colour.

As youth leader I feel church can play a crucial role in deconstructing stereotyped gender norms, ideologies and transform mindset of people. I often wonder why is colour white always associated with purity and black is regarded as dirty or evil. Even today we sing in the church ‘Jesus like lily pure and white’. All colours are created by God are beautiful. From childhood we are conditioned about an arche type image of Jesus as man with light skin  in white robe. We are hardly taught to imagine Jesus as an Asian man with sun tanned dusky brown skin. His clothes must have been soiled with mud and dirt as he traveled from place to place.  Just as white – Black is also beautiful.

25th November is the UN Declared International Day International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence begins on 25 November and end on 10 December, Human Rights Day.

16 Days of Activism Campaign provides me the opportunity to share my story. I have pledged ‘Because I Am Precious in God’s Eyes – I will not Keep Silent about Gender Based Violence and Sexual violence ’.  I invite all of you to join this campaign and  ‘Break the Silence’ and ‘Take Action’ to end any sorts of gender based violence whether in our home, school, church or society.

 (Shyreeti Daveena is a young adolescent girl an active youth church leader – residing in Nagpur and is studying class XI  )

 #16 Days of  Activism@ Shyreeti Daveena 

Women’s Concerns Ministry ,
National Council of Churches in India