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Arpit, 26, is an advocate for women’s rights and gender equality. Arpit was exposed to violence and gender inequality from a young age, seeing the way that his father ill-treated his mother. Arpit’s mother worked long hours doing domestic labor and rarely left the household throughout his childhood.
After learning about gender equality and women’s rights through Oxfam's Creating Spaces partner, Astitwa, Arpit began to advocate for his mother’s rights and freedoms. He saw that he could help change how his father treated his mother.
“Change starts in the household. Women and girls need to be respected by the men and the boys in the house, or nothing will change in our society,” Arpit says.
Now, he works with Creating Spaces to ensure that men and boys work to end violence against women and girls and child marriage.
This is his story
We are three brothers and I am the eldest one. My father works as a carpenter at a furniture shop and mother is a home maker.
When I was a child, we were staying in a Mohalla (colony) where it was a regular sight to see men shouting at women (their wives) using filthy language demeaning women and their dignity. Sometimes, I was a part of it.
In the past when I used to talk to any woman, I thought they were different, because society looks at them from that perspective.
I thought women were good for nothing and that they were at lower status of the society.
Association with Astitwa
I became associated with Astitwa and attended various meetings conducted by them. I realized such mindset and perspective was wrong.
The kind of mindset I developed during the course of time towards women is rather good. Since participating in different activities of the Creating Spaces project and working with grassroots women and understanding their situation, I realized that we were suppressing them and their freedom of speech.
Society still looks down to women, they are not equal to men. If they are not given equal status in society, then nothing will happen and no development will take shape.
Changes in family
In the past, after cooking food for the entire family, my mother would eat last. This was not affecting me, it was a regular trend.
Normally in homes, women or mothers eat after all the members of the family finish their meal. They settle for whatever is left for them. But suddenly, I felt bad.
So, I brought change in my family. I made it a point to eat together only once she was done cooking.
Also, in 26 years of marriage, she had never been to a nearby market or had any idea of what the outside world was like. Thus, I changed that and now she visits the local market and brings groceries and other things she chooses.
In the initial days, I was helping her but later she went alone. It helped her take decisions and bring things of her own choice, whether they were saris or food items she needed.
About domestic violence, I would like to add that three months ago my father was shouting at my mother and raised his hand to beat her. I stopped and protested. I told him scolding women demeans women in the society.
Since then, I found a change within him and until now he has never misbehaved or physically assaulted her (my mother).
Changes in society
In our society, whenever a woman goes out to work, men (husbands) with patriarchal mindsets think they will lose control over their wives.
Some men do not allow women to go out and work because they assume people will think they are surviving on their wife’s income”. Also, if they go out and work it is a shame for the family, as women are seen as ‘izzat’ (honour) in Indian traditional families. For her to be seen working, is to tarnish the family’s honour.
To discuss my dream, I must first talk about my community. In my community, women are always deprived of a higher education.
Thus, my first goal would be to visit all of the communities, mine included, and convincing parents to send their daughters, along with their sons, to study.
About child marriage, my opinion would be to not marry off your daughters so early. Instead, focus on their education, encourage them to continue their studies and to earn for their livelihood. Spend the money you have saved for her marriage on her studies so that she can earn and take control on her own life and marriage.
What is Creating Spaces?
Creating Spaces is an Oxfam Canada flagship project that takes action to reduce violence against women and girls (VAWG), including child, early and forced marriage in 6 countries - Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Philippines, and Nepal.
How does it work? By helping change the attitudes, behaviours, and systems that perpetuate violence against women and girls through:
1. Creating spaces for support: Women who experience violence often lack access to support services. Creating Spaces improves access to social services, medical assistance, counselling, job training, and legal aid. Support provides women with tools to take control of their lives and to build a better future.
2. Creating spaces for justice: Laws often exist, but go unenforced or unchallenged. Creating Spaces works with legal professionals and community leaders to uphold the rights of women and girls. We educate women to better understand - and fight for - their right to a life free of violence.
3. Creating spaces for change: Creating Spaces facilitates knowledge-sharing between local partners and countries to generate widespread change. We help individuals and institutions connect, share, learn and adapt approaches to ending violence against women and girls.
Over 5 years, Creating Spaces will:
- Change how communities think about violence and the acceptance of violence.
- Provide support to women and girls who have experienced violence.
- Strengthen women & girls' rights, leadership, and engagement.
- Help institutions and networks get the tools they need to influence change
You can help Oxfam empower more women by donating today!
Photo credit: Atul Loke/Oxfam