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Youth to the fore: Social messages through social media

Posted on Aug 10, 01:17PM | IANS

Is it okay for your boyfriend to know your email password and check your mails or for your girlfriend to track your SMSes and screen your friends?

Taking a different perspective on gender violence in a youngster's everyday life, 'Must Bol' - a by the youth, for the youth campaign - is creating ripples in Delhi's youth circuit. Started in December 2010, and having entered the virtual world the very next month, the campaign has hit an instant cord with the youngsters because of the relevance of the issues and the non-preachy manner in which messages are being put across.

Take for instance the not-much-talked-about topic of violence in intimate relationships. The 30-member core team of the campaign - most of whom go to college or are recent pass-outs - decided to throw open the topic for discussion on social media.

"There were simple questions asked: Do you think it's Ok that your boyfriend keeps your cellphone and checks your messages? Is it Ok that your girlfriend logs in to your Facebook account and rejects friend requests from other girls? The responses we got was overwhelming," Manak Matiyani of the Youth Collective, the initiator of the 'Must Bol' campaign, told IANS.

"The idea behind having a discussion was to give youngsters space to voice their opinion and connect to a bigger reality that they may be victimised to violence - and it could be of any kind. Based on everyone's response, there were a few short films made which were showcased in colleges and other public spaces," he said.

One of the films is about a phone conversation between a boy and his girlfriend, and it showed how easily his concern turned into a controlling mode.

"The main idea of our 'Must Bol' (literallly meaning must speak out) campaign is to recognise violence in our lives, talk about it and then address it," Matiyani said.

He said they had organised at least 15 workshops across the city on different themes and made over 30 short films.

The campaign has also explored the theme of stereotyping men and women, which is often one of the underlying causes of harassment of women when seen "overstepping" the so-called set boundaries.

"Kitchen and Men" is a short film on the theme, in which a young, college-going boy is shown making tea for his grandmother. He then questions the whole idea of "kitchen being the women's bastion", hitting home the message that barriers exist only in our minds.

Aishwarika Ojha, a student of Indraprastha University and a core member of the campaign, said: "Our interpretation of culture has destroyed gender equality. It's time we clear our heads of perceptions and unlearn what we have learned for generations."

Another theme - of encouraging men to act against violence on women - saw the 'Must Bol' team chalk out some tips to be "real men".

So, Mantip#141 was: 'You might be really in love with someone, but remember they still have the right not to love you'.

Or Mantip#303: 'It is always wrong to hit your partner. There is never any excuse to hit your wife or your girlfriend'.

'Reclaiming the Night' was another campaign to make the city safer for women, especially in the dark hours.

On Holi, their campaign against violence urged men to take action on the theme 'This Holi, Let's be Consensual Before Being Sensual'. The campaign has its presence in Facebook (its page is Let's Talk), YouTube and Twitter.

(Azera Parveen Rahman can be contacted at azera.rahman@gmail.com)