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Youngsters speak up in India against violence on women
06 December 2004

New Delhi: Students from several colleges and schools here Saturday used the media of play, mime and song to eloquently urge for a better world and for an end to violence against women.

Over 20 teams participated in the annual "Festival of Street Plays" at the sprawling lawns of the Gandhi Smriti in central Delhi. The event was held to mark International Volunteer Day and this year's theme was "Volunteering for a Better World - Youth against Violence on Women."

"We are taught only to bear (suffering), taught to suffer everywhere. Why? Don't we too have a hand in shaping the world as it were?" chorused a group of 18-year-olds from the Miranda House college in their play "Ab Toh Bolo!"

Dressed in black kurtas (long shirts), jeans and colourful dupattas (scarves), the girls marched in circles, recounting reported instances of violence and harassment against women.

They spoke of Manorama Devi who was allegedly raped by security forces in Assam, the plight of Gudiya - a Muslim woman in Uttar Pradesh who was ordered by religious heads to return to her first husband - and recent statistics on the sinking numbers of the girl child.

"Street plays get the message directly to the masses, since they speak a language that is direct. Earlier, we had performed plays on child abuse, rape and communal riots. They have in their own way helped spread awareness," said Rouble Raghuvansh, one of the members of the team.

The daylong event saw different groups present plays on topics ranging from domestic violence, female foeticide, economic exploitation and rape. The festival was organised by United Nations Volunteers programme and Gandhi Smriti Darshan Samiti. This was the third year of the festival.

Said Jyoti Singh Payal, 16, a mime artist from the Gandhi Smriti Shiksha Kendra: "Art has always been a traditional media to spread public awareness. It can work wonders, since people will watch, listen and learn when it is presented in an entertaining manner."

Wearing a black T-shirt and black tights, face painted white, she depicted a woman tortured by her husband in the 20-minute mime show.

The festival also had 10 children from the Arya Bal Griha making posters that would be put up at various art galleries in the city.

Student volunteers from schools such as Delhi Public School, in Mathura Road, and Ramjas School will write articles on the event, which would be put up in their school.

"This is an effort to promote volunteer-ship among the children. Students have been trained as part of a Gandhi Media Literacy project. They would write on issues that affect society in our quarterly magazine called 'The Yamuna' which is circulated in many schools," said Vedavyas Kundu, one of the organisers.

There was also a panel discussion on violence against women convened by Delhi High Court justice Leela Seth. Participants included Joint Women's Programme director Jyotsna Chatterjee, Deputy Commissioner of Police (Crime Against Women) K.C. Dwivedi, student leader Anandini Dar, children's filmmaker Rakesh Sharma and United Nations Development Programme member Alka Narang.

Said Seth: "Violence against women is of many kinds. It starts from the womb and goes right up to the tomb. Even the law in many cases is unable to help, because what is required is a basic change of mindset, both among men and women."

From: New Kerala