Convening 3: Jaipur, India – Day 4 — Collective Power
Kavita Srivastava, Secretary of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties and Ruchira Gupta, Apne Aap witH MEV Pilot Cohort
On Friday evening, we had the privilege of engaging in an extremely rich conversation with human rights activist Kavita Srivastava, who approaches her work using a gendered-violence lens. The Secretary of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties, Ms. Srivastava offered us a thorough understanding of the challenges facing women in India today. As with each of the other activists we’ve met, Ms. Srivastava’s intersectional approach meant that we touched on a wide-range of issues and held a broad perspective on issues related to gender inequality. This conversation also allowed us to recognize that we are struggling with very similar questions regarding strategies for ending violence against girls and women – from the impact of national anti-violence laws after 15+ years, to responses beyond crisis shelters.
We began Saturday by practicing Tai Ji together on the lawn of the hotel. Over time through this practice we have developed into a cohesive unit, moving both individually and collectively with great alignment. Check out a video of our Tai Ji practice.
We then headed off to meet with Ruchira Gupta and Shama Afroz, of our host organization, Apne Aap. Apne Aap is an NGO which organizes survivors of sex trafficking through community-based self empowerment groups, providing safe spaces where women and girls can gather, access education, improve their livelihood and receive legal rights training. Apne Aap currently has 146 such groups and aspires to reach a critical mass of 5,000. Our group was inspired by Apne Aap’s approach to survivor advocacy, which meets women where they are, focuses on what they identify as pressing needs, and empowers them to use their own voice to secure their rights.
Ruchira Gupta and Shama Afroz, Apne Aap
That morning, we had the opportunity to observe a Survivor’s Conference, where current and formerly prostituted women gathered to share their stories, articulate their desires for themselves and their daughters, and strategize together to realize their dreams. It was a true gift to witness the power of their voices and collective strength. Three cohort members, Suzanne Koepplinger, Corrine Sanchez, and Ted Bunch were invited to speak about their work in the U.S. Afterwards, we were honored to learn that the conference participants felt a deep sense of solidarity, alignment and common purpose with our group.
Suzanne Koepplinger, Corrine Sanchez, and Ted Bunch Speaking at Apne Aap’s Survivor’s Conference
MEV Pilot Cohort and Attendees of the Survivor’s Conference
Both our conversation with Kavita Srivastava and our experience with Apne Aap reinforced the importance of “taking it to the streets,” and creating a public discourse to shift cultural norms and create lasting social change. The power of this approach was apparent and stayed with us as we closed the day.
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