HOW ONE MAN ON A CYCLE IS CHANGING RURAL INDIA
Meet the man who is riding across India for a cause – to call an end to crimes against women.
Since March, Rakesh Singh has already visited over 80 villages, covered around 2,000 kms, interacted with more than 25,000 people and hopes to reach Delhi by March 2017.
Acid attacks, domestic violence, sexual assaults, human trafficking and other gory crimes against women make news in India daily.
This fatal seed for misogyny is planted right in the home of a young child.
One man has set out on his cycle to confront and challenge the patriarchal and rigid mindsets - that make our society violent and destructive for women.
Rakesh Kumar Singh, a native of Bihar, quit his corporate job to actively join the movement to end crimes against women. As a devoted campaigner with Stop Acid Attacks, he realized the extent to which patriarchy is so seeped in; and how it harms innocent young girls and scars them for life.
In March 2014, an acid attack survivor Rani, flagged off his nation-wide journey from Chennai. He has already visited villages and small towns in Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry and Kerala.
Using theatre and puppetry, he is reaching out to the common man, and woman on the street. He has already spoken in various educational institutes, and also interacted with local tea sellers, roadside vendors and several villagers. He speaks to them about gender differences and gender-based crimes; that are hugely rampant in India.
Riding in South India
He says that despite the language barrier, he has been welcomed in the South. He has also managed to question age-old notions and prejudices about gender.
He says, "Many people thanked me for making them question their traditional beliefs, and for helping them see the other side of the story."
He says that his time in South India was a big learning. He also remarks that gender violence exists in the South. "Women have more participation in social and educational structures. They have a larger acceptance, but it is still on the margin." He says he was surprised to see that dowry is also commonly practiced in the South.
Simple lessons on gender sensitization by Rakesh Kumar Singh
These are some of the simplest ways in which he communicated the message of gender discrimination to people in South India.
An important checklist to see who bears the responsibilities of a house:
Who is the first person to get up in the morning at your home?
Who is the first person to make the morning tea?
Who is cooking breakfast/lunch and dinner?
Who is the last person to eat food at home?
Who is the last person to go to bed?
"Inspite of that, if the sugar in tea is less, how does a father react? This is how a son learns how to treat a woman.
The man is the head of the house. The owner of the house.
If a man is screaming at his wife, his son will imitate that. Usually, sons imitate their fathers, and daughters imitate their mothers."
Do fathers help educate young sons on sexual health and sexual conduct?
When a young girl hits puberty, the mother has a talk with her daughter about menstrual cycles, menstrual hygiene etc.
Yet when a son starts growing up to be an adolescent, and experiences sexual desires or frustration, his father never sits him down to have a straight talk about sexual health and appropriate sexual conduct.
Towards a society free of gender bias
- You are the owner of your body. Keep your self-respect high.
- Respect freedom of all genders. Freedom is not a product, it's a feeling; it's a state of mind.
- Do not encroach someone else's space.
- If you bear witness to any form of gender violence, please raise an alarm.
Help Rakesh in his mission!
If you wish to support Rakesh Kumar Singh in his mission to ride for gender freedom, please visit https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/ride-for-gender-freedom and spread the link!
If you see instances of any form of crimes against women, please push the pin and voice your concerns.
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