Chevening Alumni India fight for gender equality

Chevening Alumni India (CAI) have been running a series of events focused on tackling sexism. We caught up with Deepti Ameta, a member of CAI, to find out more.

 

Why did Chevening Alumni India decide to run events about gender equality?

Chevening Alumni India (CAI) was formed in 2015 with an objective of bringing together the 2,500 (and still growing) Chevening Alumni in the country.

 

As an evolving entity, it also aims to contribute to the betterment of the society. 

 

So far, the Chevening Alumni Programme Fund (CAPF) has enabled CAI to hold public lectures focusing on issues such as healthcare, art, heritage, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), innovation, and social entrepreneurship. These one-off events have made it possible for many alumni to connect and re-connect with one another for personal and professional gains. However, one of the most remarkable outcomes of these engagements is the growing recognition for CAI as a potential incubator of solutions to the problems that India faces.

One such issue, which is often debated and referred to, was (and still is) the worry over the rising incidences of gender-based violence in India—particularly the sexual crimes against women and children. Last year, we picked up this thread with the hope of giving the CAI a more structured direction. A few of us teamed up and after much deliberation, we agreed to create a movement on gender equality. We call it a movement because we hope it to be a cross-cutting theme which underpins any activity that the CAI undertakes in the future. We feel that in order to obtain long-term impact, it is imperative that sustained efforts are made on this front.

 

Why is this an important topic to you personally?

 

Personally, gender equality is closer to my heart because I believe a fairer world is possible.

 

However, for me, gender equality is not a destination but a process, a constant journey, a conscious choice. It takes tremendous effort (and an acknowledgement of responsibility for those in privileged positions) to fight back against learned behaviors and create a more gender-equal environment. With this understanding, I believe that it is important that high-achievers, such as Chevening Alumni, confront the issues of power, gender relations, and ensuing inequalities. Many alumni are in influential positions including in government, media, policy, legal, and business sectors, and want to contribute. Building on their motivation, peer-engagement, and collective commitment can be powerful and bring a truly lasting change.

 

Can you tell us about one or two of the events that you have run so far this year? How did you go about planning them, and what were you hoping to achieve through them?

Once we decided to launch the movement, the next task was to figure out how we go about this herculean task. The biggest challenge was to narrow down the focus in the interest of time, resources, and keeping up the morale of a diverse group which is spread across a geographic area of 3.287 million km². The Gender Equality Movement Task Group (formed by alumni interested in gender equality issues) agreed to focus on sexual violence against women specifically. Within this, workplace sexual harassment was agreed as a leading issue because it is topical, given the increasing numbers of women in the workplace, and alumni can relate to it as most of them are working professionals. For me, it was also an entry point for us all to start looking at our own behaviours, attitudes, and misconstrued ideas about gender and gender norms. To address this issue, we decided to include events, a social media campaign, a survey, and academic research on the issue. The hope was to stimulate debate, engender discussion about neglected topics (such as the debilitating effect of sexism on men as well), and create actionable solutions which will inform next steps.

What else do CAI have planned for the future?

The resulting actions for the CAI are to:

  • Produce a paper capturing the learning on this issue.
  • Create a pool of Master Trainers (consisting of interested alumni) to create awareness on this issue within their personal and professional capacities.
  • Develop standards for employers to address the gaps in creating the safer workplaces. One idea for dealing with the issue of sexual harassment in the workplace is a certification programme, awarded when employers adopt measures to create a safer workplace environment. 
  • Address gaps in policy and its implementation.
  • Take measures to work with children at a young age, before gender biases become deeply rooted.

We hope that the movement will continue indefinitely. The activities are not limited to the ones above. As more and more alumni come forward with solutions, questions, and ideas, we are committed to continue building on this enthusiasm. Besides gender equality, CAI is also committed to work on other issues. Currently, we are identifying these focus areas, the modus-operandi, and resources to build a collective vision and work plan.

 

What advice would you give to other alumni groups wanting to run a similar series of events?

Humans are creative beings. To capture their imaginations and give their energies a positive direction requires a lot of hard work and a locus of collective engagement. In the case of the CAI, it meant identifying motivated and committed individuals and inspiring them with opportunities of engagement (for us it was one-off events, social gatherings).

 

Most importantly: run the show, even when no one shows up.