Walking from the Breakthrough office to LSR was a surprisingly long walk. This worked out in my favour, because I felt very unprepared to be asking women about their experiences on sexual harassment. Like me, I hope you find this funny, considering I (like many other women) face sexual harassment on a daily basis- walking to the supermarket, while waiting for public transport, while sitting in a bus/ auto/ metro, and even while walking back home. So really, I should have a full arsenal of questions and sympathetic nods in my corner.
While scouting for locations to shoot, I quickly ran through the question I wanted answered in the interviews.
“Can you tell us about your experiences with sexual harassment while walking to/ from school and university?”
When we finally found a spot, I tried making small talk while my colleague Imran adjusted the angle and lighting. In hindsight, I am glad I got this time to fool my brain into believing that I knew who I was talking to. I say this, because I am not accustomed to asking strangers details about their experiences with sexual harassment 5 minutes after I meet them. Most conversations about sexual harassment are behind closed doors, and involve emotions of shame, embarrassment, and guilt.
Every one of the women we interviewed had a different story, a different opinion, and a different perspective on sexual harassment. But, every one of them mentioned “ignoring” as their preferred method of dealing with perpetrators. One woman in particular talked about how we are taught to internalise the blame when faced with sexual harassment.
Later, she mentioned how women downplay the incidents to prevent from being branded “bad” or avoiding the dreaded question “what were you wearing”, which in no subtle way implied that I as a woman, infact, deserve this.
I was practically asking for it.
Despite a large number of people trying to downplay sexual harassment by calling it “eve teasing”, the campaign #MakeitSafer is attempting to bring the conversation around sexual harassment to the forefront. Breakthrough’s research found that a large number of girls were dropping out of school due to sexual harassment, which impacts their access to education, jobs and more. In addition generating awareness online, Breakthrough is conducting over 300 activities in 16 districts over the next 2 months to make the journey to school safer for young girls. From workshops that make boys more sensitive to girls’ reality, to working with the police, village communities, school authorities, bus drivers and more, Breakthrough is making the safety of girls a priority.
If I leave you with one thought, it would be this: Sexual harassment is an unwelcome reality in India, but this can and should be changed. If you are a girl or a woman, or have a girl or woman in your life, help us make safety a priority.
Help Breakthrough achieve this reality by visiting our website at www.inbreakthrough.tv/igirl/
Together, let’s #MakeitSafer.