In the middle of the night when a woman needs to board an auto in Delhi, she usually keeps her friends or relatives informed. The statement isn’t exaggerated for even if it is an autowallah, a woman out at that hour doesn’t trust anybody who falls in the category of ‘man’. But when one hears 35-year-old Narotom Singh talk, the common perception gets
“Autos have been plying on Delhi roads since almost 50 years, yet it is a shame that none have thought about the feelings of an autowallah,” he complains and grabs instant attention at a recent event organised to announce ‘2nd MenEngage Global Symposium’ in the city.
When Metrolife asked Singh why he felt the need to join the campaign where ‘men stand up for women’ he replied, “Eighty per cent of our passengers are women. Hum apni maa beti ki bhi izzat karte hain aur apni sawaari ki bhi. It is important to have self-control and we can never forget that it is a woman’s hard earned money which enables to support our homes financially. Infact, we autowallahs want to be part of such events but nobody ask us.”
His confession doesn’t come as a surprise when one views it in the framework of men living in the present situation. While on one side are men who don’t have a say on gender-issues, on the other side are men who support and fight for the cause of women and are looked down upon by their peers.
Take for instance 30-year-old Amit Das who resides in Rajasthani Camp at Sarita Vihar and feels for women from lower strata of society. Seeing his mother toil all day long to support his father and the family, he couldn’t stop himself from fighting for their cause.
“In 2007-2008, our community toilets were shut. This became problematic for women and young girls since they used to go out to defecate in open after dark and became vulnerable to molestation and harassment. I then decided to get together everyone and act against the government by breaking the locks of the public toilets. We even collected money and got it repaired and today we maintain them ourselves,” says Das, recollecting the incident that gained him the support of women from his community to be elected as their Pradhan. He is the youngest Pradhan in the Capital and is ready to go to any length on the issue of women empowerment.
Das adds that his peers “used to feel shy when I placed a bin in front of the toilet for safe disposal of sanitary napkins. They rebuked me, but if we don’t do it then who will? Humaara mohalla bhi to humaare ghar jaisa hi hai.” His humble background and keen desire to work for the cause can compel the fair sex to re-think before generalising all men in one category.
“It is not just for women empowerment but also for gender-empowerment that there has to be an equal amount of engagement from all communities,” says Abhishek Choudhary, an artist. He has recently completed his masters in English Literature and explains his association with the campaign as his ‘personal trajectory’.
He says, “I have always been involved in issues related to rape and violence, since it is not just women who are being raped today. In the beginning my parents and friends didn’t understand my actions, but gradually they realised that the issue is all around us and they cannot suppress the rebellion against this violence.”
So does that mean we now have a male brigade fighting for women’s rights?“December 16 has been the deciding time to prove than men will not just stand by and watch, but speak out,” says Akhila Sivadas, executive director, Centre for Advocacy and Research (CFAR). She adds that the “fascinating part is that these men who are not regarded as so-called ‘macho men’ are not getting riled up. They are fighting patiently.”