Motivated by outrage that his wife had to use old rags during menstruation because she couldn’t afford sanitary pads, India’s ‘pad man’ Arunachalam Muruganantham, decided to create an effective and affordable pad for the women of his country. Spurred by the famous gang rape of 2012, West Bengal brothers Ravi, Nishi and Rishi Kant founded the charity 'Shakti Vahini' with the message that violence against women can only end when men are actively involved. Driven by a belief in fighting for gender equality in India, hundreds of men joined their friends, mothers and sisters in marching across 30 cities as part of the ‘I Will Go Out’ campaign on January 21st, 2017.
There are men in India who care about gender equality, but sadly they are a minority. Half of the country’s population are being disenfranchised and treated unfairly by a large proportion of the other half. As such, the solution to gender inequality must involve the engagement of both halves of Indian society: men and women. Although now separated by gendered stereotypes, expectations and opportunities, both halves must unify in their activism to create a nation that champions all of its citizens, and reap the benefits of a society that welcomes the contributions of everyone. Overpowering gender norms is in the interests of all Indian citizens as by limiting the opportunities afforded to women and stripping half the population of their rights to contribute in all sectors of society, India will never move forward. Gender equality is a necessary foundation for a more peaceful, sustainable, progressive and wealthy society. It is in the interests of both genders to champion gender equality and depart from the stereotypes that damage us all. In modern India, gender-based violence and gender inequality are considered to be 'women's problems', perpetuating the notion that it is the role of females to find solutions to their own problems. But change can only be brought about when we work together to combat social injustice. Most men agree that women should be treated equally, yet how many of these men are active participants in women’s rights movements? How many of these men challenge their friends when they make sexist comments? To what extent is it their fault when gender stereotypes are so deeply embedded in the fabric of Indian society? These are questions with indeterminate answers, but the overarching implication of each question is clear: gender equality can only be achieved when men are active. It’s obvious that the collective consciousness needs to change but how? Although women's rights organisations have not yet established a perfect strategy, there are a number of things men can do to fight for a fairer, more equitable society.
1. Recognise the gender-based stereotypes and oppressive gender norms that you come across in your every day lives, and actively try to stop perpetuating them yourself. 2. Challenge gender-based mistreatment of women in all spheres of society: at home, in your community and in the workplace. 3. Participate in sharing gender-sensitive education and educating others on gender issues. 4. Research and engage in local movements that are fighting to change Indian law and attain equal access to education, healthcare and opportunities for woman. 5. Support charities who help disadvantaged women in your area. For many women, these charities are the only source of help.
Remember, men are part of the problem, but they’re also part of the solution. Recognise the plight of your compatriots and don't be silent when it comes to defending their dignity.