On 14th February, a unique campaign was carried out by the youth leaders of Bamanwada and Dnyaneshwar Nagar to ask for their right to violence-free, fearless love. The campaign started with few young women coming together to create greeting cards to be presented to various stakeholders. These greeting cards were made with messages for creating an atmosphere where young people can experience love, free of violence and fear. The message in the cards were drafted by girls to be given to various stakeholders – asking for their support in their specific roles, eg. the card make for educational stakeholders asked them to make campuses violence-free by implementing POSH Act 2013, not hurting dignity of girls during administrative processes, and being approachable and non-judgemental when students approach teachers with their problems of love relationships.
This was followed by two workshops – with senior college and junior college young women students of the LJNJ Mahila Sangh college. The workshops were on our constitutional right to violence-free love. It started with understanding what violence is, identifying certain acts by intimate partners as violence, difference between attraction and love, and our right to stand up to such violence. The most eye-opening for the young women was the idea of having a constitutional approach to love. This is the thought of founder Deepa Pawar who is leading this project for change led by young urban women in Mumbai. A strong follower of the ‘personal is political’, this thought is that just as we rightly demand equality, equity, justice, etc. in public life, we most certainly should hold our personal lives including our relationships to the same standard.
Lastly, a delegation young women presented the greeting cards with the above message to their Principal, Vice Principal and NSS teachers. These important education stakeholders were supportive and accepted the cards as a token of their support. As the Vice Principal of junior college said, “I am touched that girls are asking for my ‘love’ today, that they need such support. I will try my best.”
It was amazing how girls identified personal types of violence such as checking of mobile phones, along with structural indignities such as not allowing to use the toilet. They were vocal that they shall not suffer any violence in relationships quietly, which is where institutional support is extremely important for them to deal with such violence safely.
We shall be following up on the issues raised during this workshop with advanced trainings, and explore other stakeholders who can be given greeting cards with recommendations specific to them – such as police, Yuva Mandals, CBOs, Mahila Mandals, etc.