By Dr P.T.M. Sunish:
As a part of the Kerala government, I see myself surrounded by the willingness of the state in initiating and sustaining dialogue towards positive developmental ingenuities for its people. The Department of Social Justice under the Government of Kerala in its steadfast proactivity envisioned a space that solely addressed gender disparity and the complexities of the concept that seep into our everyday functioning. We call it The Gender Park. And so were sown the seeds towards a better Kerala whose score on gender equality would be at par with the other high human development indexes.
With a petri dish for skilful experimentation now ready – it became necessary to cumulate, invite, acquire and imbibe world practices and knowledge adopted by nation states, civil societies and individuals at a common forum which not only influences the national and international dialogue on gender but also allows for mutual exchange of knowledge. The International Conference on Gender Equality (ICGE-1) 2015 is designed to serve these purposes. As the first of the biennale series, it is envisioned to gradually unfold the many layers of achieving a gender-just society through thematic dissection.
While working for gender equality so closely, it comes as a surprise to me that the society that we are a part of has inequalities so deep rooted that we have gotten conditioned to not realising or addressing them. A powerful inertia exists both for those in a position of privilege and power who continue to be ignorant and those without it – who continue to be far from realising their own potential. Our efforts are designed to be that force that compels society to break away from the status quo. We want to be catalysts of gender equality and we hope for a day when the need of an effort like this would cease to exist and that’s what our energies are invested in.
But at this moment, where the realities of gender inequality and its violence are too stark, our aim is to provide interim solutions while parallelly planning our long-term interventions. Our She Taxi programme, for instance, came to me as an idea after the Shoranur rape incident that shocked the country. While the program has grown to be internationally acclaimed for the economic and social empowerment of women taxi drivers in a primarily male-dominated transport industry, it still is only an interim solution. As it stands today, She Taxis which are primarily for women allow male passengers only in the company of female passengers. However, this gradual process can be called successful only when the She Taxis will have no customer restrictions. At an abstracted level, the ICGE is intended to find suitable ways to arrive at both interim and long-term solutions and to be able to seamlessly transition from one to another.
In my years of experience, I have come to notice that feminism is very often misconstrued for misandry and that induces a culture of shaming feminists. Crusaders of gender equality unknowingly fall victim to this binary approach of feminism and misandry and thus becomes paradoxical. I have also learnt that there are crusaders of the cause out there in the world who aren’t guided by appropriate terminologies or politically-correct vocabularies. We are all in this struggle together.
What is required of us is to lift the restrictions imposed by gender stereotypes and free the individuals trapped by it. Our society needs to turn into a liberating space and our ideas must turn fluid for it to flow through and past the compartments that we have labelled gender with until the walls become weak and break down.
About the author: Dr. P.T.M. Sunish is CEO of Gender Park and Managing Director of Kerala State Women’s Development Corporation.