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Not Alone Anymore

Across India, Satish Singh inspires men to break with brutal traditions and stand behind the women in their lives and villages.

UNEP | Peter Arnold Inc.

Satish Singh’s home state, the northernmost Uttar Pradesh, is renowned as one of the poorest and most male-dominated states in all of India. More populated than all but five countries in the world, with more than 190 million people, it is a vast land where the physical and verbal abuse of women rarely raises eyebrows.

Now, it is the heart of Satish Singh’s gentle revolution to change the way men think about violence against women.

“The dowry killings are increasing in my own village,” he explains. “There have been over five dowry deaths, and they are not seen as violence. Even my own cousin burned his wife, or perhaps she committed suicide due to the domestic violence, I do not know. The whole village kept quiet.”

Outraged, Satish mobilized men in his village to demand justice. Since then he has ignited a growing movement that motivates men to protest against violence and to support survivors, often through direct intervention with authorities. Its members also hope to become role models for boys and other men.

Today Satish’s network, Men’s Action for Stopping Violence against Women, has over 100 village organizations that have reached out to tens of thousands of youth and men. These organizations form violence prevention watch groups that intervene in cases of violence within the village. They also work with doctors, police, lawyers, judges, and the media, as well as local schools and colleges, to ensure that these villages are violence-free zones.

The network tackles hundreds of acts of violence each year and has been asked by the government to expand from 40 districts to all 75 across the state.

“Once we started meeting survivors and saying, ‘You are not alone; we will stand by you,’” Satish says, “we found that they can better fight their cases and solve them.”

They have had many successes. In one case a woman was burned for dowry, and the perpetrator made it appear to be a suicide. A delegation of men from three neighboring districts repeatedly met with authorities to ensure that charges were pressed and the guilty arrested. In another instance, a citizens’ group helped a woman register her case with authorities after her father-in-law pushed her off a roof following her refusal of his sexual advances. Her injuries necessitated the amputation of both legs and an extended hospital stay. The men’s group arranged for her medical care, including prosthetics to help her regain her confidence.

There is seemingly no end to the network’s creative strategies. Boys and men raise their voices through campaigns, debates, poster competitions, and film shows, and all pledge against acts of violence and rape. Tapping into media is a key strategy—they often train journalists from rural media outlets in order to reach new populations.

At the core of the movement is the idea of self-change.

“Initially, we find that this work naturally appeals to men because they tend to view themselves as protectors,” says Satish. “However, this is based on a dominant belief of helplessness in women, so we go further, asking men to reflect on their relationships at the workplace and in their homes.

“In many ways I continue to pay the price for this work, and I feel discouraged often. Many local organizations do not welcome my teachings—violence against women is still viewed as a women’s issue, a family matter. In the beginning, even some feminist groups challenged us, asking, ‘Why should we use our limited resources on educating men and not women?’”

But ultimately it was working alongside women’s groups and feminist friends that changed Satish’s life and opened his eyes. “All these friends have helped me reveal my inner humanness, which has remained hidden until now.” he says, “They showed me how to share my problems and open up.”

And the achievements of Satish’s network are quickly breaking ground.

“Now, in Uttar Pradesh, violence against women is a recognized issue—the media is talking about it, the government is referring cases to us. But the biggest success is that women have started feeling that they are not alone. I believe that no man is born violent. Men can change, but they need much support.”

Comments

nilima's picture

truely a great work

I am just so much amazed to read satish's story the man with the pride working for the nobel cause...simply so much inspiring!

Hats off to him!!

thank u for bringing this news here!! so grateful to you!

Emie Zozobrado's picture

Wow!

This is so awe-inspiring! I don't know what "dowry killing" is all about, but giving "dowry" to get the hand of a woman in marriage is being practiced in my own homeland, too. Although there are cases of robbery and hold-up where the raising of the "dowry" is the reason (groom-to-be's could not afford the "price" of the dowry), I could not imagine a human being burned and killed for dowry!!!!

In any case, Satish has done something that is worth living and dying for! It only takes a spark to set a fire burning, it's true ... and look how far Satish has gone in his struggle to help and protect women!

Really, my great salute!

Always,
Emie Zozobrado

Being a women that has spent her entire life being abused, I can understand how hard it is to get out of a situation but here in the United States we are given so many places to turn unlike in Uttar Pradesh. I agree that women need to be educated on how to get through these obstacles that they face every single day. However, men need to be educated on how to treat women and how to deal with their sexual and emotional outbursts. The only way this can happen is if these men are educated and given the support that they need. I am so proud of these men for educating themselves and becoming better to their women, community and themselves.

kati.mayfield's picture

More, please!

Dear Ramya,

Thank you for sharing this account of the great work being done by Satish Singh and Men’s Action for Stopping Violence against Women. I think that it is a great spotlight to feature here in the Through His Eyes section of World Pulse, and I hope that it will inspire other men who are advocating for the rights of women and gender reconciliation to put their stories here, too.

Hopefully that will continue to create supportive community to buoy Satish up and allow him to carry on with his incredible work.

Sincerely,

Kati Mayfield

*resolved this year to think twice and to smile twice before doing anything*

Rita Raj's picture

Honour and Courage

It's men like Satish who have a made a difference right in the communities they live in that is an inspiration and encouragement of the work that needs to be done . Satish has truly who has acted with courage and has dealt with issue of violence against women with honour.

Y's picture

Until men are willing to

Until men are willing to stand up to other men, their women (including their own daughters) will continue to be brutalized. Thank you for sharing this story.

Yvette

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