Tuesday, February 12, 2008

how to make a louder blank noise?

Society in India suffers from an epidemic social disease deceptively called eve teasing. Read Train to Chennai if you need a reminder or if you have no idea what I'm talking about. Stuff like that happens as an everyday occurrence in the society there. A parenting magazine's tips on how to deal with this are a clear measure of the desperation.

I believe that problems like this can be solved by citizens like you and me. All one needs is a social movement to channel your energies through. Fortunately for us, the hard work of getting such a thing in place has already been done. Blank Noise is a grassroots organization in India which takes on this issue.

In a post on their blog this morning blank noise asked folks to post questions to them. I wrote up the question below:
"What is blank noise’s plan for moving from a fringe urban phenomenon to the momentum of a true national grassroots movement? In other words, what is the plan to inject this into the consciousness of the main bloodstream of India’s social fabric?"
In the process of thinking this through, I got caught up in the labyrinth of possibilities and ended up with this post which keys in suggestions as they came to me. Blank Noise must have already thought of most of them and may even be acting upon some of them. The common thread across these thoughts and suggestions is to shift focus to spreading this movement to mainstream while maintaining its strong internet and urban presence:

Blank noise should get streamlined as an organization.
A more streamlined, transparent, structured but flexible blank noise will help the movement immensely:
  • Manifesto: Publish a high-level manifesto which is abstract enough to not cause any conflicts and still serve the purpose to bind and rally all involved individual to a common set of beliefs and goals. Go multilingual in publishing this.
  • Funding: A core team should go around for some real funding, and establish a base of operation with a few full time participants/employees. I think that given the clear understanding of this problem in certain economically well-to-do sections of the society, it should be possible to raise a decent amount of money for this cause. It is important to raise enough money to run this operation on a sustainable and long term basis. It will make sense to get registered under societies registration act 1860 as a Citizens Organization and in other countries to enable funding.
  • Structure: Create a transparent and well defined organizational structure with permanent and rotating positions within the organization. The permanent/renewable positions could be a few key ones which are held by folks who can get more actively involved. These permanent positions could form the executive board. The rotating positions could be more transitional where the people could handover and move on if they cannot give time anymore. Each position has a well defined role and responsibility. There could be quarterly and yearly meetings with continual online communication. Examples of positions is listed below, the first four could be permanent:
    • President
    • Treasury and Fund Raising. There should be a clear budget in the plan and 100% transparency on obtaining and disbursement of funds.
    • Operational
    • Media Liaison
    • Universities Liaison with separate positions for North, South, East and West
    • Schools Liaison with separate positions for North, South, East and West
    • Community Liaisons with separate positions for any large community in India. This could be based on religion with separate liaison officers for each of the religion or something else which allows for the ability to tap into existing communities. The suggestion of liaison officers based on communal divisions might seem odd but I think that a structure which reflects the reality of India's social fragmentation and having appropriate people leading those engagements will lead to better results.
    • Legal council
  • Advisory Board: Strengthen blank noise by creating an advisory board which consists of well known individual with influence in their area. From managerial/operational skills to government influence to media influence to community influence. Include people from diverse backgrounds. Expect advice and introductions from them and not any direct work. They should also be able to represent and promote blank noise publically.
  • Partner: Strengthen blank noise by “officially” linking up with other related NGOs.
  • Endorsements: Get media sponsorship and recruit some well known celebrities as ambassadors.
Launch an advertising campaign in most Indian languages.
Approach this professionally as a matter of selling a stronger moral position to the society via short, hard hitting, tangible TV, Radio and print advertisement campaign which people can relate to with a sense of quiet urgency. All we should look for is a mass acknowledgement of the problem in the society, a correction will most certainly follow. Examples :
  • Parents telling little boys that this is wrong.
  • Little boys and girls confronting men on streets
  • Women wearing bands on their hands for each time they were harassed that week.
  • Mothers being harassed in front of their watching children.
  • Situation reversal: let men imagine what this is like by reversing the situation.
  • Tap into the sense of pride which people feel in India of being on higher moral ground than other cultures, ask: when did it start?
  • An iPod/iPhone like campaign where the victims of these daily attacks just narrate an incident which happened with them, then stare at the audience from the tube for a few seconds and then say, "Next time you see this, please say stop"
  • Ensure that the organization is seen as rational and not discarded/portrayed as overzealous, fanatic and irrational by media/society.
Work with student and teaching bodies in universities, schools etc.

Connect with people in larger settings
For example take permissions of movie theaters to do a small 4 minute skit live before the movie starts of a street level harassment; at the end of it ask people sitting there to do just one thing: acknowledge this social problem and stop atleast one such incident from happening that week.

Encourage and actively seek participation by men too.
For example, create mass interventions which involve not just women but some with ONLY men too.

Reach the poorer sections of the society.
Most of the urban populace in India is widely disconnected from poorer sections of the society. Maybe a consideration for working in apolitical fashion with the leaders of organizations like VHP, RSS, SIO, SCM is warranted. This issue is most certainly common to and indifferent to religious affiliation. Other organizations should also be looked at.


J said...

wow. thanks for this. It is detailed and well thought of..thankyou!

Would you be able to work with us on some of the suggestions?


Ayush Gupta said...

Short Answer:
Sure, how can I help? I'll send an email to blanknoise[AT]gmail.com to start a dialog.

Long Answer:
I'd absolutely love to partake in making this a wider grassroots movement. To make that a reality, what blank noise needs is not just believers (no matter how sincere they are) but also a handful of key committed doers leading, spearheading and tirelessly toiling away with a belief of getting rid of this social disease in their lifetime. Folks like me can come and go with our contributions but unless that level of committed leadership, agenda and organization exists this will remain a fringe movement. I write that last line with a sense of hope, not despair.

Roshan said...

Thank you!