Gender-based violence is one of the most worrisome issues in the world today. Women throughout history have fought many battles to move forward in their efforts for gender equality, from the Suffragette Movement in England to the abolishing of Sati and Johar in India. We are all guilty of conforming to traditions that are inherently misogynistic and deeply patriarchal, and we often don’t even realise that we are doing this.
What’s worse is that it has taken the occurrence of devastating and shameful incidents in India to trigger serious action against gender-based violence. The Nirbhaya rape case of 2012, the Unnao case of 2017, the Kathua case of 2018 (to name a few) were all met with revulsion, despair and fear; the only silver lining is that these incidents have awakened the nation into taking women’s security seriously.
All Delhi government schools teach young girls self-defence, the metro has a ladies-only compartment, female-friendly autos and rickshaws are found at metro stations, male policemen are no longer allowed to stop female drivers on the roads post 6 pm, and the list goes on.
Additionally, there has been an influx of NGOs and social initiations that aim to address the issue of women’s empowerment and eradication of gender violence. Inspired by the good work done by these people, we decided to come up with an initiative of our own: ‘Defend-Her’ aims to provide women of all ages and from varying socio-economic backgrounds with the tools and techniques needed to combat physical and mental abuse in their lives. Through a series of self-defence workshops, the women learn the importance of self-sufficiency to enable them to understand that they still have control over their own lives.
The workshops themselves are carried out in collaboration with trained security professionals who work at Sentinels Security – a private security firm in New Delhi – and the Delhi Police. These trainers have expertise and experience as defence personnel and VIP personal security officers, and they impart self-defence tactics and teach safety measures to all the women who attend these sessions.
The larger goal of the project is to create a network of guardians, whose main job would be to conduct regular surveillance and build a secure environment in their areas for women. We hope to expose the inherent patriarchy that exists in the minds of many people and change the narrative of women being “owned” by their fathers or husbands to promote a way of thinking that embraces gender equality as the new norm. Our mission is to create a society in which no one will be able to freely harass women because they think it is their right to do so, or because they think that they can get away with it as and when they please.
Women have, and always will be, enough on their own. It’s time we started to acknowledge that and change our behaviour to ensure a more positive future for all.