An ORF Mumbai-SPGRC workshop has decided to launch a city-wide, age-appropriate awareness campaign to curb rising gender-related crimes in Greater Mumbai municipal corporation schools. It would try to sensitise children about sexual harassment and other gender-related crimes.
In an attempt to curb rising gender-related crimes, Savitribai Phule Gender Resource Centre (SPGRC) of the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai has decided to launch a city-wide, age-appropriate awareness campaign. This campaign would be designed mainly for children in municipal schools to sensitise them about sexual harassment and other gender-related crimes.
This decision was taken at a workshop organised jointly by the SPGRC and Observer Research Foundation, Mumbai, on July 30, 2012 to ideate the creation of Information, Education and Communication (IEC) tools for such a campaign. The event was held at SPGRC under the guidance of Dr Suhasini Nagda, chairperson of the Centre and Dean, Nair Dental Hospital.
NGOs working closely with MCGM schools such as Abacus, Sneha, Vacha, Akanksha, Laadli, CEHAT, CCDT, Community Development Officers (CDOs), principals of municipal schools and noted academics attended the workshop in large numbers.
It was agreed that, apart from school children, IEC materials should also carry messages directed at parents, teachers, workers and managers of schools, hospitals and other work environments. The materials to be developed include posters, booklets, pamphlets, leaflets and short audio-visual films on awareness and prevention of sexual harassment and abuse, eve-teasing and domestic violence. Skits and interactive projects for children were mooted to create an environment of participative awareness, so that the message percolates to every pupil.
Ms Medha Joshi from Vacha, an NGO, emphasised the need for putting in place a fail-safe redressal system before the launch of the campaign. She also advocated setting up of a dedicated helpline, whose number must be carried on each message. Dr A. L. Sharada of Laadli suggested that gender-friendly schools should be rewarded. Schools would benefit from suggestion boxes placed in strategic locations as sexual harassment is an issue that students may be inhibited to talk about, she said.
Ms Sneha Khandekar, Consultant Coordinator, SPGRC, emphasised that the next steps would be to form a core committee of CDOs, NGOs, and SPGRC along with ORF Mumbai to continue with the work of producing IEC materials based on the suggestions provided by stakeholders. Many enthusiastic NGO representatives and CDOs agreed to be part of the core committee. Case-studies, observing strict confidentiality of victims, will be used to create messages to spread awareness, it was decided.
Speaking about the Prevention of Sexual Harassment (PSH) Act, Dr Kamaxi Bhate, Secretary SPGRC, mentioned the Supreme Court’s landmark judgment of 1997, recognising sexual harassment at the workplace as systemic and gender-based discrimination, violating fundamental rights. The verdict passed mandatory guidelines for prevention and resolution of sexual harassment incidences at the workplace, putting the responsibility on the employers to provide systems for prevention and redressal of the issue.
She said MCGM is committed to creating a work and educational environment in which employees/students/patients of all ward offices, central offices, and all departments of MCGM, including hospitals, colleges, and schools, can work and be treated in an atmosphere free from sexual harassment and discrimination. MCGM is also committed to zero tolerance of sexual harassment and hostile workplace and to ensuring that every employee/patient/student has the "right to work and be treated with dignity," and a "right to a safe working/educational environment".