A group of women fighting against violence, schoolgirls and artists have set an otherwise quiet wall of La Martiniere for Girls talking. To turn the wall vocal, the group has painted on it a mural that speaks about women’s safety at home, workplace and in public spaces.
The mural comprises images and slogans on issues that women want to be addressed. They include better street lights, women drivers in public transport and safe homes.
The mural is a culmination of a series of workshops held with 200-odd women survivors of violence. The mural reflects their struggles, concerns and the messages that they would like to send out to the world in order to create safe spaces for women on the street, workplaces and at home.
The mural is an initiative of women’s rights organisation Swayam, in collaboration with La Martiniere for Girls. The organisation is committed to ending violence against women and children. They used the school’s 160ft-long wall on AJC Bose Road to create a “talking point” in the city.
A woman who has walked out of her marriage because of domestic violence, one who continues to suffer a bad marriage for the lack of economic independence and a person who is subjected to brushes by men as she takes her daughter to school through a bazaar every day are all part of the campaign on the occasion of International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, which is observed on November 25.
Four years ago, Tabassum Ara, 40, had booked a train ticket to Calcutta from Delhi with her two sons aged 13 and eight, respectively. She had left home because of her husband’s violent acts.
It was not easy for Tabassum Ara to walk out but she now cherishes her economic independence and freedom.
“I do tailoring at home and earn Rs 1,000 a week. It is not much but takes care of my sons’ education in a government school. The confidence I have gained is because of Swayam and I hope that many other women who are suffering in silence should show the courage to walk out,” said Ara.
But a 32-year-old woman is still finding it difficult to fight domestic violence. She is unable to move out because she does not have the wherewithal to fund her son’s education.
“My husband will not give me any financial support to fund my son’s school fee, which is Rs 3,000 a month. I have started a part-time job and earn Rs 1,000 a month…. I had married into an affluent family and gave up dancing and weightlifting because my in-laws did not approve of it. Today, I regret my decision,” said Tamosha Ray.
Besides the images and the slogans, helpline numbers for women will be written on the wall.
“We want to create a talking point in the city. If there are spaces like this it will also give opportunities for women to self refer themselves,” said Amrita Dasgupta of Swayam.
The campaign has also included 25 students of La Martiniere for Girls who believe that despite living in an “empowered environment” they still are not outside the purview of violence against women.
A 17-year-old, who takes public transport, feels that violence against women need not always be physical. Harassment in public spaces is also violence, she says. “There is harassment in public places where people will make us feel uncomfortable by staring at us. The saddest part is that because it is so common that girls have learnt to overlook it and don’t speak up against it,” said Class XII student Rinjini Majumder.
The girls from La Martiniere have come out with the slogans and have also painted some of them on the wall.
“As a girls’ school it is only right to raise consciousness against violence against women. If we can raise this consciousness not only amongst ourselves but in the city, we will be happy to send across the message to the people,” said Rupkatha Sarkar, principal of La Martiniere for Girls.
The group painting the mural have been supported in their effort by artists Sumantra Mukherjee, Anup Pramanik and Remille Bargi and their team. “We attended the workshops with the women from Swayam because we needed to understand their ideas and concerns,” said Pramanik.