By Major Elgiva Dora Shullai, Seng Kynthei, India
On February 19, 2019, 35 participants – including men and youth – took part in the awareness program on violence against women and children at Nongthymmai, organized by Seng Kynthei, the Women’s Wing of the North East India Unitarian Union. Invitations had been sent out to all men, women, and youth of the six to seven congregations in the Shillong circle. We were happy to see a few senior mothers, who seemed genuinely concerned with the safety and security of the new generation. Even though the event took place during the winter holidays for youth and government workers, inclement weather hindered a much larger participation.
The two resource persons of the program were Gina Phanbuh and Balarisha Lyngdoh, both experienced trainers. They work with a prominent NGO, The Northeast Network, a women’s rights organization operating in Meghalaya and in neighboring states.
Seng Kynthei Secretary Dr. Creamlimon Nongbri welcomed everyone and gave a brief introduction to the importance of this awareness program.
Balarisha Lyngdoh started with the section on Gender, explaining how ‘understanding gender is the key to achieving gender equity.’ Gender is a role created by us as a society where we consciously or unconsciously condition our children to adhere to various roles, expectations, rules, and norms that will eventually lead to gender inequality and all its negative effects. This also results in the misuse and abuse of the power between the powerful and the powerless, which invariably leads to violence. Most victims are women and children.
The sensitive subject was tactfully delivered to suit all audiences using audio-visual aids such as gentle explanation, white board, video, and slideshows to catch important points to remember and practice.
We were made aware that we had all played our part, as a society, in getting us where we are with this social menace. Therefore, it’s our responsibility to advance gender equality. In the prevention aspects, we are encouraged to be non-discriminating and non-judgmental; to teach our children to respect one another; and to enable our children and family members to grow and live peacefully while maintaining the safety and security of each person in the community.
After a short lunch break, our second resource person Gina Phanbuh focused on women’s rights. She explained the difference between ‘needs’ (air, water, food, shelter, clothing, family, money, etc.) and ‘rights’ (e.g. the freedom to make decisions and take responsibility; equal respect to every individual in every space no matter their sexual orientation; equal right to an education; sexual and reproductive health and rights; the right to work and equal pay for equal work; right to property; and the right of access to public information). ‘Women’s rights are human rights’ she reminded us. ‘More than 180 nations have signed the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, and more countries are signing it as we speak.’
Needs and rights are interlinked and interdependent; they are basic requirements for human beings to live a healthy, productive, and meaningful life. Women are entitled to their rights, but we are far from a world where every woman and girl can realize and enjoy her human rights. It is the duty of every government to look after its citizens and to provide for basic needs and rights. Gina stressed that every woman must know her rights and the various governmental laws and policies that relate to those rights.
Overall, it was a very educational and interactive workshop that made all of us more aware and conscious of our roles and responsibilities to prevent violence and bring about peace and consistency in our communities.
At the conclusion of the program, we all read the White Ribbon Pledge together.
Seng Kynthei President Kong Battinora Rani summed up the event, thanking all the participants and organizers.
I thank all who have actively supported us in every possible way to educate and bring awareness programs at the grassroots level, and to all those who are promoting the welfare of women and girls in Meghalaya.