Rape Culture: An Unseen Reality

Igniting and sustaining action for change can be rigorous, and we at Haiyya are working towards building larger movements and victories that facilitate space for different actors to come together to change existing societal structures and norms that often limit us. Hence this year we re-launched “Haiyya Camps” a platform for diverse individuals to come together to share their experiences, ideas get trained on organizing and campaigning skills and tools to create tangible action plans on various pressing issues as a precursor to the upcoming 2019 elections that needs to be addressed urgently by citizens to stir a necessary change. It is a package of 5 camps in a year based on issues like environment, rape culture, privacy, etc. These Camps are also designed to provide opportunities to different organisations and individuals to collaborate and work together towards a common cause.

While the planning was going on for the Camp, there was something which was making everyone in our team angry and frustrated – it was the issue of “Rape Culture” and how people have started to normalise it in their lives. It was then that we decided that this is a very important issue that is often neglected, sidelined and no one is ready to talk about it “kyunki boss yeh sab toh chalta rehta hai na!” This thought was something that we wanted to change and make people realise that No, It’s one major issue that is not only affecting us as citizen but as a nation too.

How the day looked for us!

15 people joined us for our first Haiyya Camp on Sunday, 27th May. The camp started with an exercise to set the context. It focused on the issue and how deep rooted “Rape Culture” is in our society and some of the causes contributing to it were media objectifying our women in bollywood songs, advertisements, victim blaming in newspapers, lack of gender sensitization, etc. At the end of the exercise all participants learnt that how knowling and unknowingly despite being active advocates of change they too have been contributing to this growing “Rape Culture’.

The realization lead to a passionate discussion among the participants. Which was then followed by a session of Narrative building, an organizing tool to understand the shared values, emotions for individuals to come together and build relationships to take actions. It reflects why an individual cares about the issue and how he then motivates others to join him. This tool helps in creating urgency. Through this module the participants build their own narratives around the issue and shared their stories, experiences where they have seen or themselves been a part of this problem. It felt as if everyone in someway or other has gone through this terrible situation.

Some interesting ideas that came up

  • Both the sessions created the foundation for all the participants to build action plans. Plans that they as individuals/ groups can immediately take.
  • The group came up with interesting action plans like creating more awareness from the foundation targeting kids, parents, teachers, making sex education a part of the curriculum, creating safe spaces for people to address their grievances etc.
  • Through these ideas, together we build an action plan which focussed on what are the key things that we want to now start doing in our individual capacity, how as an individual we can try and bring a change in this society which doesn’t value it’s women.

The training ended on a beautiful note. All the participants were really moved by the issue. They all felt very motivated and energetic to work on the issue in their respective ways.

On a personal front it was sad to know that the mentality of our country is so narrow that they are too blind to understand the issue but at the same time it felt amazing to see the youth of our country coming up and trying to work on changing the traditional mindset which believes that Galti toh ladki ki hai!  I think people have forgotten that they all are in this world because a woman was powerful enough to take all the pain and give life to them and this thought really hurts me.

This is just a beginning and an important one to bring the necessary change. In the coming months more camps will be conducted on various pressing issues to create young leaders within our community who will challenge the status quo not as individuals but as a collective people power house. Those of you who are interested to participate please reach out to us at anjali@haiyya.in

By Anjali Prabhakar

Anjali Prabhakar is the senior campaigner at Haiyya leading the Haiyya Camps. She has been actively working on issues like Rape Culture, Violence against women, Voting rights, etc in the past with Haiyya.


Turning the tide on plastic pollution through community cleanups


When 29kg of plastic was extracted out of a 10-meter-long sperm whale that washed up dead in southern Spain earlier this year, it carried an urgent message for us: we are killing animals with plastic! In a way, I was equally responsible, for not having done my bit. While the news made me angry at human apathy, around this time I read about Mumbai’s Afroz Shah who initiated one of the world’s largest beach cleanup drive at Versova to tackle marine litter.

Sheer scale of Versova beach cleanup prompted urgent action

The sheer scale of the initiative prompted me to undertake a similar activity in Delhi. What added momentum to my drive was a Swedish fitness craze called ‘Plogging’ (picking up trash while running), which has become a rage in western countries. This became my way of taking affirmative action on plastic! So, in March this year, me and Anurag Sikder (a close friend) went plogging in Jahapanah Park in Alaknanda (New Delhi). It was a fun way of taking care of fitness and environment. I thought it would be easy to mobilise people. But for a month, we were the only ones plogging. Despite plaudits on social media and assurances from friends, none showed up. It was disheartening at first as we questioned people’s real intentions, but continued doing our job. Eventually, we extended our drive to Sanjay Van park for a change of location. This was when we posted before/after pictures of trash on the their Facebook page and park authorities took note of that. Some volunteers also came forward to support us.

At this point, it was clear our cleanup drive was generating awareness, so we shifted our focus closer home: our colony in Chittaranjan Park (New Delhi). This is where we could mobilise more people, and inculcate a sense of collective responsibility.

From random cleanups to community cleanups

What began as a random cleanup activity now coalesced into a more structured movement with our first community cleanup in C.R Park last week. We created a Facebook event and sent out invites to friends. Many expressed interest and some wanted to attend as well. But when the day came, none showed up, again! Who would want to wake up early morning to pick up trash and get their hands dirty anyway? To give us a moral boost, my family and neighbour came forward and kickstarted our drive from H-block. We walked around with jute bags collecting trash from parks and roadside, arousing curiosity of residents, some of whom also joined us. As an epiphany, we decided to replicate this drive to other blocks and hold discussions on alternatives to plastic and discuss waste segregation at source. Picking up waste, I think, is the first step to all waste management drives. Soon we will be quantifying and identifying the plastic we pick up and call out businesses to take action. We want C.R Park to become a model colony in south Delhi, whose cleanup template can be replicated in other neighbourhoods.

Biggest challenge is to break stigma around picking trash

However, the toughest challenge was and still is to break the stigma attached to picking trash being limited to lower classes. Through our cleanups, we want to challenge this status quo. We’ve had people tell us stuff like, “I feel for the cause, but I have an OCD against anything dirty so…” But broadly, we need people cutting across religions, castes, celebrities, priests, businesses to actively participate in trash picking to fix this problem. The idea of collective responsibility needs to be inculcated.

The other big challenge is mobilisation. To address this, I plan to collaborate with educational institutions, NGOs, fitness clubs, government institutions to rally more volunteers for cleanups. This will not only increase reach, but the mobilisation bit will be distributed across multiple channels.

And while it’s important to address the issue at source, I believe cleanups provide for lasting behavioural changes and forces people to think about plastic alternatives.

Delhi Police is onboard for June 3 cleanup in C.R Park

The biggest success we’ve had till now was to get the Delhi Police on board for the June 3 community cleanup drive in C.R Park with theme ‘Beat Plastic Pollution’. They have agreed to assist us with volunteers, SDMC support and cross-promotion of the event on social media. The timing of our cleanup is important because India is hosting this year’s edition of the World Environment Day on June 5 in New Delhi.

Cleanups to be concluded with educational, follow-up action

In these three months, my biggest learning has been that while cleanups raise awareness more broadly, it should go beyond just shock therapy because this can leave volunteers feeling helpless in the absence of an educational follow-up action. So we will conduct discussions on alternatives to non-degradable plastics with focus on reducing, reusing and recycling. Second learning lesson is to collaborate, since organic mobilisation is tough, unless you’re an influencer. Lastly, if you don’t believe in your goal, nobody else will. So work honestly, smartly and consistently. This is where the biggest change will come from! Interested people can join me on Instagram @ploggaindia and on Facebook at Abhimanyu Chakravorty.

By Abhimanyu Chakravorty
I am a media professional working for an English daily based out of Delhi. I write on health, fitness, climate change and world politics. Of late, I have become some sort of a climate-change, plastic-shunning campaigner after being deeply inspired by three women who will be rowing across the Atlantic in December 2018 to challenge the everyday use of plastic. Closer home, Afroz Shah, who was part of one the world’s largest beach clean-up in Mumbai’s Versova.