We bloggers dwell in the virtual world. We flock together. We emote together. The only hitch is that we do not know each other. At least I do not, being a new entrant in the blogging world. Hence, when the Times of India - Indiblogger meet in Bangalore was announced, I was more than happy to grab the opportunity. This was my first chance to meet my virtual acquaintances in flesh and blood.
This meet was not just any other blogger meet. It was a meet for a cause. A discussion on' Bangalore for Women'. While I was expecting mostly women, the number of men in the room was quite a revelation. (To be honest, I thought they'll just sign up on a whim and just not turn up. Sorry guys!) In fact, both genders were well represented.
There was hardly any ice breaking needed, as for many, it was their second or third meet. But for me, this was the first time, so it took me a while to get used to the environs. Especially, people expect you to introduce yourself by saying your name followed by your blog name! Quite amusing. Within a few minutes, I got into the groove.
The session started off with Mr. Franklin Joseph giving a lightning talk on women's safety in general. He requested women to carry off themselves with confidence rather than cower with fear.
The talk was followed by a discussion on women's issues plaguing the city. Overall, it was a very meaningful one. An intriguing thing that I observed was that a lot of people who had turned up had come to voice a specific concern. That ensured that a broad range of topics were covered. Here are a few pointers from the pre-lunch session:
1. Safety of girls with special needs. A lady blogger brought out several valid points and also mentioned how grossly under-represented they are in the special schools meant for them.
2. Significance of knowing self-defence and exuding confidence, especially for the differently abled.
3. Child sexual abuse - many mothers voiced their constant fear of keeping their children safe. Some also talked about safety in housing complexes.
4. Safety in public transport especially buses and autos. One lady blogger narrated how a ‘Good Samaritan’ auto-driver helped her reach home safe.
5. Problems that the working women face in Bangalore. This section was again well represented. Problems in procuring a rented house, problems at workplace etc. all were talked about. A lady blogger narrated a shocking incident which clearly brought out the stark reality.
6. One topic that attracted a lot of opinions was the dressing sense of modern women. While a section argued that women are free to wear whatever they want, a few others opined that ladies should exercise caution when deciding on their attire.
7. I had been there to voice a specific concern as well - public toilets and sanitation facilities, especially for the poor and lower middle class women. I also talked about the lack of safety and sanitation facilities in upcoming construction project sites and the slums around the same.
8. Sexual assault on women.
The post-lunch session saw three of TOI's editors sharing space with the bloggers. Mr. Narayanan Krishnaswami, one of the editors, provided his insights into the topic and explained what TOI is trying to achieve with their focus on 'Bangalore for Women'. The editors also solicited feedback and suggestions to help them make their campaign better and here are a few highlights from that brainstorming session:
1. More coverage on the root cause of the problems.
2. More workshops to educate and spread awareness among women.
3. Setting up a helpline/Spread awareness about helplines that exist to protect women.
4. Partner with schools and help in inculcating knowledge about good touch/bad touch in children.
5. Tying up with other forms of media such as TV and radio to spread awareness among the different sections of the society.
In a nutshell, it was an afternoon well spent. However, I couldn't help but think how far-fetched the practical solutions seemed. All problems and potential solutions discussed revolved around a fulcrum - a fundamental change in the way the society treats women. But 'society' is something that even we are a part of, right? So, I strongly believe that kind of a change must start at home. Every home, which includes ours too.
Teach our boys to respect girls.
Teach our girls to distinguish between good and bad touch.
Apply presence of mind in difficult situations.
Never hesitate to help a woman in difficulty.
If the maid's daughter stopped going to the school just because she attained puberty, try talking to the mother.
If someone abused/bad mouthed the girl in the bus, just don't be a mute spectator, but do the bare minimum, at least give a cold stare.
Refrain from passing judgemental comments just because a girl wears western clothes.
Blog and spread awareness!
Those are a few things that we can change about ourselves. We may not necessarily be able to bring about a tangible change in the society, but a small effort in that direction will certainly go a long way.