Active Stocks
Fri Dec 08 2023 15:59:53
  1. Tata Steel share price
  2. 129.2 -0.62%
  1. HDFC Bank share price
  2. 1,653.1 1.38%
  1. State Bank Of India share price
  2. 614 0.35%
  1. NTPC share price
  2. 285.25 0.42%
  1. ITC share price
  2. 449.15 -1.95%
Business News/ Opinion / A supportive society can help combat violence against women
Back Back

A supportive society can help combat violence against women

Industry leaders are in powerful position to act as bridge between activism around women's rights and the corporate world

Violence is a major deterrent to women achieving their full potential. Photo: HTPremium
Violence is a major deterrent to women achieving their full potential. Photo: HT

As I reflect on my life, as a businesswoman and mother, I feel fortunate—fortunate to have had a supportive environment while growing up, the freedom to pursue an education of my choice, as well as to decide the course of my life. I’m also aware that the ability to make these choices for ourselves is a rare luxury. As this awareness grew inside me, I realized that I was in a position to use my personal space, time and professional clout to catalyze change and help promote causes that I strongly believed in. I believe we need to lead the change that we want to see around us.

My exposure to human rights, feminism and women’s rights took place during the years I was pursuing my studies at Wellesley College in the US. In the formative years of my career, my interest in these topics remained largely latent because of the pressures of establishing myself in the corporate world. However, over the last 10 years, I have been actively engaging with what I see happening around me. When the South Asia Women’s Fund (set up by the Ford Foundation to promote women’s rights work in the region) invited me to be part of its board, it was the beginning of a new journey—one of inquiry, awareness and learning about critical issues that contribute towards a society where violence is unacceptable, and more so when the victims are women.

Women face violence everywhere. Our daily papers are filled with reports of sexual harassment in public places and workplaces, molestation at schools or colleges and even rape. The forms of violence perpetrated against women are not just innumerable, but heinous. Children are increasingly becoming victims of violence. I think the only reason for hope in such a bleak scenario is the increased reporting of such cases. This, in turn, reflects the growing awareness among the immediate community and society at large about issues that were earlier brushed under the carpet. Media reports suggest that of all the crimes reported, over half pertained to domestic violence. It continues to shock me that nearly 70% of Indian women face some form of domestic violence.

Non-governmental organizations, big and small, committed to the cause of women’s rights, often lack funds and facilitation that help reach out to needy women at all levels. The government, policymakers and local governance machinery need to get involved to increase awareness through dialogue and action. However, the sad reality is that violence against women does not receive the attention and priority that need to be accorded. I fail to understand why, since stories of violence against women are not restricted to any specific geography of our country. They transcend the urban-rural divide and other sub-divisions of class, caste and even educational background. Did you know that nearly 54% women and around 51% men consider domestic violence to be acceptable? Two out of every five women in abusive relationships stay silent about their suffering. I find this data highly disturbing.

Over the last five years, I have been associated in various capacities with Breakthrough, a global human rights organization that began the Bell Bajao (Ring the Bell) campaign to end domestic violence against women. As corporate donors, we helped facilitate this campaign by funding a video van across Delhi to sensitize communities about domestic violence and what they can do to stop such incidents. I often talk about Breakthrough’s work in combating domestic violence because I believe their model allows for replication—in methods and scale. Their work is not just restricted to the areas or communities they work in, but is magnified by the use of pop culture and mass media in their message to share awareness, outcomes and success stories. A very interesting aspect of the intervention is the target audience that the message engages: men and the community at large. When men are made aware of their actions and of those around them, they help form a conscientious support system that enables the women in their communities to speak out. A supportive society helps break the taboo around women talking about violence they face and offers them courage to report such instances.

In the case of Bell Bajao, a significant 10-15% increase in reporting of cases was witnessed in areas in which Breakthrough worked. Similarly, more cases were brought before community elders, seeking intervention. But what heartens me most is the evident behavioural change, the increase in discussions around the issue, calls for action to stop violence and the increasing number of women accessing services.

As industry leaders, we are in a powerful position to play the role of the introducer and act as the bridge between activism around women’s rights and the corporate world. I think funds allocated under corporate social responsibility need to be channelled towards forging connections with and among communities, to ensure no form of violence is silently or tacitly endorsed.

Violence is a major deterrent to women achieving their full potential. Our vision must be to ensure that violence against any human being—girl, boy, man or woman—must cease. It is time our ideas were matched with action.

Priya Paul is currently the chairperson of Apeejay Surrendra Park Hotels, The Park Hotels chain of boutique hotels. In 2012, she was conferred the Padma Shri award by the government of India.

Milestone Alert!
Livemint tops charts as the fastest growing news website in the world 🌏 Click here to know more.

Catch all the Business News, Market News, Breaking News Events and Latest News Updates on Live Mint. Download The Mint News App to get Daily Market Updates.
More Less
Published: 05 Mar 2014, 12:35 AM IST
Next Story footLogo
Recommended For You
Switch to the Mint app for fast and personalized news - Get App