The Global Sorority team has just returned from filming in India. Our timing there couldn't have been more surreal.
As we spent our days facilitating leadership training programs and filming the lives and stories of the young women living in one of Bangalore's 367 slums, the whole country was up in arms and taking to the streets.
On December 16th, the day our crew arrived in Mumbai, a young female medical student was attacked and raped on a moving bus in Delhi. Her name was Jyoti Singh. She was in hospital fighting for her life as the country went into collective shock, reading the newspapers daily about the state of crimes against women. Outraged, as if these were new numbers. As if all of a sudden, women had come out of the woodwork to report crimes of violence and assault, that had previously not existed. But the sad truth shows official figures at 228,650 of the total 256,329 violent crimes recorded last year in India were against women. The real figure is thought to be much higher as so many women are reluctant to report attacks to the police.
Tragically Jyoti died from her injuries the week we returned home to North America.
Much of the work we do with Global Sorority is directly geared towards the empowerment of young women. We teach them ways to harness the inner resources they have deep inside themselves. They learn what is of true value to them so they can carry their shining light out into the community and beyond… However it's often their own husbands, fathers and brothers who cast long shadows over these ‘would be’ shinning lights. It’s brothers, husbands, fathers and sons, who contributed to the 228,650 instances of violence against women in India last year, so what is to be done about that?
During our trainings we often have a large group of boys who gather around the outskirts of our workshop, asking questions as to why they were not invited into this private party? "Why only the girls?" they ask. So we decided to invite some of these boys to share with our group for a few hours.
To be fair, we all act from whatever stage of awareness we have in this moment. So for these young boys, things are just being done the way they always have. No one has ever brought to their attention what inequality might look like, in their own family, in school, or in society. No one has asked them how they might feel if their rolls were reversed with their sisters? Most of the time, they've never been given an opportunity to see the playing field from these seats.
In most countries soccer (football) is a beloved sport amongst boys and men. So we draw a soccer field on the black board, with a girls team and a boys team. We then draw half of the field covered in boulders, holes, trash, and a torn goal for the girls team. And then a smooth grassy half for the boys, with an extra large goal to ensure the boys team gets a clear shot. We explain that we aren't there to root for one team over another, we want them both to be the best they can be! We explain that we work with the girls because we want the fields to be even for both teams. Otherwise it's just not a fair game and no one likes to watch an unfair match! It’s just not sporting.
They really seem to understand this analogy. When you start to name those boulders and holes on the pitch with the inequalities that girls have to face on any given day, the awareness starts to grow.
Asking the boys and girls together what might be done to even-out this field, has been a lesson in the power of equality and what solutions can be found when everyone has a chance to be heard.
Teaching young women that the value they place on themselves is the most important first step to gaining equality and being able to shine their brilliant light into the world. And giving young men the opportunity to be a part of the solution, in an empowering and positive way, is an important first step towards creating brothers, husbands and fathers that will allow those lights to shine bright into the future.