By Major Elgiva Dora Shullai, India
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.
As members of Seng Kynthei, the Women’s Wing of the Unitarian Union of Northeast India, we have been campaigning to create awareness of violence against women and children – knowing that this issue is not and has never been a women’s issue. In our programs, we strive to include men and women, boys and girls, to create a safer environment for all of us to live in. We address men directly, so they understand the scale of the problem and become part of the solution.
The White Ribbon Campaign is part of a global movement of men and boys working to eliminate violence against women and girls. Men and boys wearing a white ribbon is an important statement: it means they will not commit, condone, or remain silent about domestic or sexual violence.
The world marks November 25 as International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, also known as White Ribbon Day. From this day until December 10, we encourage everybody to take part in 16 days of activism against gender-based violence under the theme “Leave No One Behind: End Violence against Women and Girls.”
On this day, Seng Kynthei Madan Laban conducted an awareness program at the Institute of Professional Studies, Dhankheti, Shillong. More than a hundred students participated along with faculty members. In attendance were also Mrs. Theilin Phanbuh, Chairperson of the Meghalaya Women’s Commission, Dr. Rica Lamar from the Manbha Foundation, and members of the Seng Kynthei Laban congregation. Banners and posters on the subject was displayed.
We started by welcoming everyone with a white ribbon, followed by a greeting of the principal of the Institute, Mr James Mawlong. Major Elgiva Shullai, Global Sister Co-Ordinator for Seng Kynthei UUNEI, gave the introductory speech. Mrs. Theilin Phanbuh stressed the importance of reporting cases of violence and rape even though most perpetrators are family members. Courts take their own time, which causes delay in getting justice. Dr. Rica Lamar explained the meaning of the theme, “Leave No One Behind:” women from all backgrounds, whose voices were never heard, the poor and downtrodden, the marginalized must be heard.
On November 26, 2017, several Unitarian churches (Madan Laban, Nongthymmai, Nongkrem, Mukhap) organized a special Sunday service to create awareness on the subject. Seng Kynthei Jowai linked up with SURE, a social youth organization of the church, to implement the program. Many people from the community attended, and every person wore the white ribbon and took a pledge to show support for the prevention of men’s violence against women.
A “mega-awareness” program was organized the next day at New Nongstoin West Khasi Hills, in partnership with Seng Kynthei Nongstoin, where politicians, lawmakers, and government officials were represented. Rev. H. H. Mohrmen was the main resource person, aided by assistant ministers and church elders. The program was held in the market place, with hundreds of people in attendance. The local head kingship spoke on the beauty of our matrilineal society and the importance of maintaining its originality and meaning; and of the special innate powers and abilities of a woman. He mentioned that of late, men have lost their respect for women due to increasing demand and expectation, and changes in lifestyle. He emphasized that good physical health and social, emotional, and spiritual well-being are very important to achieve a strong and safe society. Others spoke about how to curb violence with the help of strong government rules and regulations as well as registrations of marriage, which have been made compulsory. Many emphasized the importance of women’s participation in building a healthy community. Representatives of the police department expressed alarm in the rise of crime against women and girls, which is not showing any respite even with stringent law enforcement and government policies. They also pointed out the ill effects of the virtual world of internet especially on youth and men.
Rev. H.H. Mohrmen spoke on the dignity of human life. Every life is precious, and we need to respect each other. We must educate our children – especially our sons – to respect women and girls. Prevention and solution to these problems must start from home, at a very young age. On our last Independence Day speech, India’s Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi said that we must be equally interested and watch our sons’ way of life as we do for our daughters.
On December 10, 2017, two other Unitarian churches, Wahmawlein and Mawlat, held an awareness program. Women from the Nongkrem Church, who had been trained at the Leadership School, accompanied and assisted us throughout the program. We were also lucky to have a nurse from our government hospital addressing reproductive health.
We look forward to creating more awareness on this issue, joining other organizations that are working for the betterment and upliftment of women and children in society. I take this opportunity to thank everyone who has continuously encouraged and supported us in our endeavors. To Nangroi! (Keep Progressing! – Khasi Unitarian motto)