| A policeman among viewers of a poster exhibition on Park Circus Maidan, highlighting the plight of abused women. Picture by Pabitra Das
The venue was Park Circus Maidan, the audience, passersby. The setting was a simple stage, the theme, domestic abuse.
To flag off the International Fortnight Protesting Violence Against Women and Girls, 2002, Swayam, an NGO fighting for women’s rights, held a public performance on Monday.
There was a poster exhibition, entitled Half the Sky, highlighting the plight of victims of violence; a cultural programme put up by the women of Swayam with songs, elocution and a play. And, of course, the screening of Bol, a documentary.
The audience watched, in absolute silence, a 12-year-old being “taken advantage of” by her employer and his brother-in-law in the play, Sexual abuse on domestic worker.
At the end of the show, however, the audience seemed reluctant to participate by offering a solution to the problem or pointing out how the child could save herself. But when a Swayam member suggested a way out, the gathering seemed only too willing to listen and learn.
There were silent nods from some of the women, and whispered comments of “poor girl” from the men. A grave sense of wrongdoing hung heavy.
Some gathered on the Maidan to watch the show, often with not a clue of the goings-on. Others made the time and the effort to figure things out, taking a closer look and carefully reading the posters. “Some people, who can’t understand Bengali, came and asked me what the programme is about. They seemed to take an interest,” said Sraban Mahato, a policeman on duty on the spot.
“I think this is a very important issue, and I’m glad it’s being emphasised at this function. It’s definitely a good thing. A lot of people don’t know what to do when faced with domestic violence,” he added.
Over the next two weeks, till December 10, Swayam has organised a series of events, including workshops, interactive sessions, discussions, theatres, readings and screenings, with participation from abused women to achievers like film-maker Aparna Sen, theatre personality Sohag Sen and actress Konkona Sen Sharma. All this, in association with several NGOs in the city and the districts.
The fortnight will culminate in a rally on December 10, organised by Maitree, to mark World Human Rights Day, with about 40 NGOs slated to take part, and “all those willing” to walk for a cause welcome to join in.
“We hope it will be successful. We need all the help and support we can get to make it work,” said a spokesperson from Swayam. “We will start from Behala Chowrasta, and walk as far as we can. The point is to make people aware.”