– Shruthi, I B.S.W
– An initiative by the BSW department
Us, the first years of the Social Work department entered college with barely any idea of what the course is about, what we were about to learn or how everything works. But within the first semester, we had built enough passion, vigilance and understanding to put forth a break time event on a topic that we felt strongly about. That confidence and thirst for justice was implemented in us by our department right from the beginning. From a conference on older people and their needs, to a session on drug abuse, a conference on human trafficking, we were taught about human rights, society, the issues and solutions. The atmosphere created by the department and its activities taught us how to voice our opinion, question injustice, how to comfort those in distress and stand up for those in need. We were constantly nudged by our faculty to explore areas of interest on our own, to research, to speak out and then, to share. Our department taught us about ரௌத்திரம் (rowthiram), the feeling of passionate anger at the sight of social injustice.
That anger is what we felt when we heard about the Ayanavaram case where a 11yr old child was repeatedly raped by around 17 men over a span of 7 months. Sexual assault, abuse and harassment. Although our society began to speak about this in 2012 after Nirbhaya, to this day nothing much has changed. There is still abuse, there is still rape and worse, there is still silence. Not just verbal silence but social inaction and apathy. That silence still prevails, and it made everyone in the department, teachers and students, angry, upset, restless and hungry for answers and for justice.
With a lot of support and help from our teachers, the first step towards satisfying the hunger we felt was made. A focus group. Consisting of around 15 students, our focus group held about 4-5 meetings and we discussed various topics ranging from sexual assault, abuse and harassment to more tabooed topics such as corrective rape and war rape.
Once we had successfully broken the silence within ourselves it was time to share this new-found empowerment, information, passion and ரௌத்திரம் with the rest of our peers so they can find it in themselves to break the silence too. The deafening silence that was built around by decades of culture and myths. The silence that robbed thousands of victims of the justice they deserved. The silence that allowed Nirbhaya. The silence to which we lost Asifa. It was high time, noise was needed.
Soon our next step was initiated by our teacher. ALOUD. A small break time event with a big aim. The focus group initiative soon turned into a department initiative as we drew inspiration from everything we’ve learnt, from the conferences we’ve attended, from the passion and hard work of our faculty and from the drive of our seniors.
The process of preparing for the break time event had been a long one, throughout the process we kept learning. A chart show with over 20 charts, presenting various topics; from what is abuse to how to report abuse, was to be the highlight of the event. On the day of the event, the OAT sported around 30 charts including case studies, laws and NGO numbers.
The students also performed a mime and a dance performance, they had put in a lot of effort to make sure the impact of the message implied was powerful. With no street theatre training yet, the dancers and actors gave it their all, channelling the pent-up anger and intense emotions they were feeling. The poetry was written by us and was recited with genuine emotion and transparency.
As the event came to an end with a short yet sincere oration, we felt satisfaction like no other. The joy of having created an impact, regardless of how big, and the relief of having finally completed the event with pride and the excitement of knowing that this was just the beginning of what we hoped to be a long, fruitful journey, was extremely overwhelming. What made the success taste even better was the presence of our department’s faculty and seniors, who are very much the reason and push behind the initiative and who are adored and looked up to by the 1st year students.
Our initiative, hopefully, will not be short lived. We, the youth need to make it our purpose to fight for and protect society. We need to come together, unite and bring justice to the victims passed, the victims in pain and silence and the unprotected possible victims. We need to do this, not for social work, but for humanity. We need to fight for our rights and safety. We need to keep talking and start acting.