Painting college walls to raise awareness of sexual harassment of women at workplace

Kolkata National West Bengal

Kolkata: This year during the 16 days, Swayam has focused on raising consciousness about “Sexual Harassment against Women at Workplace”. The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 completes 10 years in December 2023. During the last 10 years, there has been limited implementation around the Act and women are still in the dark about the existence of this Act and ways to access justice.

Art is an important language we use to engage with the public and provoke discussions. Over the past 5 years, Swayam have used Art as a means of communicating a social message. Art helps us reach the public in a meaningful, impactful and non-threatening manner.

This year, Swayam in collaboration with Barasat Government College has created a wall mural on ‘Prevention of Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace’, and related law to spread the awareness on the said subject. Swayam believes that young people can contribute largely to reducing violence against women and girls by sensitizing their peers and influencing their immediate surroundings. Their energies and enthusiasm can be channelized into strong actions towards challenging the patriarchal mind-setprevailed in the society.

Swayam through this partnership with Barasat Government College, and their Internal Committee, wants to create awareness among the students and employees of the college regarding the harmful impact of gender discrimination and sexual harassment at the workplace in particular and the society at large. It wants to prevent all forms of gender based harassment within the college campus and provide a safe and inclusive space for the students and employees.

This wall art will become a semi-permanent feature of the college for a long period of time, helping to generate awareness of the students and the general public in Barasat area.  This wall has been being painted with the ideas and experiences shared by women beneficiaries of Swayam and the students of Barasat Government College.

The wall mural was inaugurated on 5th December at Barasat Government Collegeat 2:00 p.m followed by a short program of addressing the audience on the significance and objectives of the wall mural on the topic of ‘Prevention of Sexual harassment of Women at Workplace’.

Amrita Dasgupta, Director Swayam explained the objectives and purpose of the wall Mural and said that Swayam since 2017 consciously using the medium of Art spread serious social messages in nonthreatening manner. She mentioned how art connects with people in a different and easymanner than any other mediums. She then talked about the POSH Act and workplace harassment.

She described that the POSH law has completed its 10 years but still a major chuck of population is unaware of this and suffer the harassment in silence. She said some people may or may not understand, and in some cases are ignored. Change cannot be brought only be an NGO, everybody has to work for the change, and art is the easiest way to spread this message of change. She passed on the torch of responsibility of working towards a gender just society to the students of Barasat Government college, who can make this wall art project a talking point in the district.

Dr. Samar Chattopadhyay ,Principal of the Barasat Government College said the wall art project has addedaesthetic and artistic value to the college. He pointed out that the number of male participants in the audience is comparatively less because in our society men often think spreading awareness about women’s rights is not something of primary importance. He said that we must maintain equality through continuous dialogue among ourselves, it may create disturbance at times but at the end we would achieve an open environment. And could embrace the positivity within ourselves to work towards an equal society.

RwitobrotoMukharjee, Indian actor actively working with Tollywood and Bollywood. He is a student of Comparative Studies at Jadavpur University. He addressed the students and audience by acknowledging the collaborative efforts of Swayam and Barasat Government College to place the mural art. 

He mentioned how a college space having a wall art project is very significant for equality, as art is something easy to comprehend. He mentioned how the college students can use this wall art judiciously. Nowadays, all of us use social media to post our pictures and react to memes so at the same time it is our responsibility to post this wall art on our social media feeds to generate awareness on the issue of sexual harassment.

Students should feel proud to click pictures with this wall art and to start a dialogue about social issues like workplace harassment. Workplace violence is often not taken up as an important issue by some members of society, usually men. Yet, it remains a problem which effects all members of the society, directly or indirectly.

Students should be aware of the definition of a workplace, which is not only a formal office space but also includes informal workplace and colleges and educational institutions. With the changing time today we all are active user of social media. We often use these platforms to vent our frustrations and spread hate through comments, but we must instead learn to use these platforms to spread awareness and talk about social issues.

Dr.Madhusadan Ghosh, physics professor- Thanked Swayam and Rwitobroto on behalf of the college. He mentioned figures like Rwitobroto are important as they act as catalysts towards social change. He talked about the practical implications of the wall art installation. He mentioned how it spreads awareness and education amongst students on issue of workplace violence and the POSH act. He mentioned how these students further talking about the issues and disseminating information will lead to social change.

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