What is Social Justice? by John Rajkumar

Social Justice is not something I was aware of, not until my wife asked me to help her with a blog post. So I did what anyone with access to the internet would do, I Googled it.

The first bit I searched for was the definition of what Social Justice is, and here is what I found first.

The fair and proper administration of laws conforming to the natural law that all persons, irrespective of ethnic origin, gender, possessions, race, religion, etc., are to be treated equally and without prejudice.

The definition indicates that social justice looks to form a new society. A society where all citizens are equal and have equal opportunity. As an idealist, this does sound a worthy goal to me. However this definition is very basic. Tells me the what and not the how. So how will a society with Social Justice work? Perhaps before I try to define Social Justice I need to know its history and roots.

How did Social Justice start?

With help from Wikipedia I learnt, Social Justice has its roots in the 1840s, the term was used more towards the end of the Industrial Revolution. The key aspect at this point was POVERTY. The goal was to ensure resources were distributed evenly. Since then Social Justice has evolved to include other imbalances in society, such as, Equal rights – irrespective of gender, caste, colour, religion, etc. Essentially in a society there should be no reason to discriminate against an individual and prevent him from benefiting for the work he is trying to put in. At the same time there should be empowerment and upliftment of the underprivileged.

Are we aware of it? 

Understanding this I realise, this has been a topic we discuss often. Perhaps not under the term Social Justice and not completely under it’s definition. Most democratic countries have been a part of this. They have passed laws preventing discrimination. Laws have also been passed to provide welfare to the poor. This is entrenched in the Indian constitution as well. The chapter on Fundamental Rights has article 15, which prohibits discrimination based on gender, religion, race or caste. Article 17 abolishes untouchability. The People world over contribute to this as well. We pay taxes, we stand up for ourselves or for members of our society, either online or on the streets. Voices were raised in light of violence against women. This has been an ongoing conversation for decades – where voices have been raised. Some voices have been heard and some not yet.

True, but it is a long road. . . 

In my mind, the road is long and a lot more progress to be made. As an Indian, I see debates raging on various topics that affect the progress of Social Justice. We see citizens from underprivileged backgrounds, marginalised castes as well as women rising above their disadvantages and excelling. They have done this on their own will power, or with assistance from the Government or NGOs. However, we still see abject poverty, caste and gender-based discrimination. There are debates raging on how we should prioritise our citizens or on the methods we should employ to achieve Social Justice. This is normal I would presume in a functioning democracy. However, I do go back to realising, this is a long and difficult road.

How do we contribute? 

So, what is it that we can do to move Social Justice along the right path? I obviously don’t have the answer. I believe one important element in this is – the NGO. In a functioning democracy the primary custodian of this, is the Government. However, a Government has priorities that cover aspects other than Social Justice. Governments are not unknown to make mistakes as well. Here is where an NGO should stand as a pillar towards this goal. NGOs work at the grass roots, identify social and economic issues, work for the have nots and fight for their upliftment.

Contrary to what we read on the news, this world is seeing one of the most peaceful times. Perhaps now is the time for us to look outward, look at our fellow brothers and sisters, understand their trials and burdens and ask ourselves, what can I do?

 

John Rajkumar

One Billion Rising and What it means for YOU!

WHAT IS ONE BILLION RISING [OBR]

Based on horrifying statistics, we have realised that 1 in 3 women are beaten or raped and that is about one billion women/girls among our 7 billion population in this world. Women and girls is an inclusive term here though, it signifies that the weaker are oppressed and hurt.

February 14th every year has now been championed as a day for Revolutionary love, being as Valentine’s day focuses primarily on love. That’s what the One Billion Rising movement hopes to carry through their movement as well. LOVE. RESPECT and a chance for an EQUAL PLATFORM.

 

HOW DID IT START?

2013 was the first year of the OBR movement where people rose to express their outrage against injustices that women suffer. It spread through hundreds of countries, involving the local communities shining a light on the injustices faced by the survivours. This movement gave a voice to them and their oppression. It included a RISE through dance, talks, walks, strikes and dialogues to say that we shall stand together and shall not be silenced and we shall strive to create an environment where violence is resisted and believed to be unthinkable.

This movement included the struggle against sexual and physical violence, which has grown now to include economic violence and violence of poverty, racial violence, gender violence, violence caused by environmental disasters and violence impacting women in the events of wars, capitalised greed and much more.

The 2014 movement focused on One Billion Rise against Justice, while the 2015 to 2016 movement was focused on Revolution. That theme is carrying on to 2017 as well with a focus on ‘RISING IN SOLIDARITY AGAINST THE EXPLOITATION OF WOMEN.’

 

RISE! DISRUPT! CONNECT!

RISE! Women are at their most vulnerable to abuse – at home, in the workplace and economically. Women are abused in multiple layers of our society. One is through our patriarchal structures in society, while another is through the economic exploitation in the need for survival. This is quite prevalent among the marginalised communities – like our indigenous women, domestic workers and women from the lower socio-economic strata.

DISRUPT! OBR believes in a world of equality, freedom, peace and dignity. This belief carries through our YWCA movement as well and it strikes an intense chord with us. Through walks, dances and other creative resistances – a force is built with hope and will that is strong enough to ask for a dialogue and create a need for the Government to pay close attention to a demand of the people.

CONNECT! No movement, or in this case Revolution, can be without support or solidarity. No system change, no challenge to a patriarchal thinking process can be done alone. It needs support and lots of it. Solidarity with a movement, with a cause that will affect each and every one of us and those suffering at the hands of these injustices can help move our hopes and dreams for a equal world forward.

 

HOW TO BE PART OF THE MOVEMENT?

There are global coordinators from the OBR movement and there are two based in India. They are Abha Bhaiya and Kamla Basin from the Sangat South Asian Feminist Network. They organise events that support the OBR campaigns. You can contact them for more information, follow the links through their names to find out more.

From one of the previous campaigns, a group called New Light Girls performed the Anthem of the OBR called, Break the Chain. This anthem can and is still used till today and any new variations of it are encouraged by this campaign.

Follow the OBR blog for more information about the events taking place around the world and know how you can help. The Indian movement has been categorised here. And here is a list of all the events taking place tomorrow around the world.  In India, there are two events taking place, one in Delhi and another in Kolkatta with subsequent events taking place around 22 states throughout February.

 

 

 

National Immunisation Day 2017

Lately social activism has taken on a hard edge to it. There is a sense of despondency that whatever is said will not be heard. The days do look dark ahead of us, however, we need to take our wins along with us as well.

National Immunisation Day 2017, the day that marks the start of the Polio drive in India in accordance with the World Health Organisation [WHO] directive. WHO wanted to eradicate the World of Polio by the year 2000 and India met that deadline with aplomb.

Polio, or poliomyelitis, is a crippling and potentially deadly infectious disease. It is caused by the poliovirus. The virus spreads from person to person and can invade an infected person’s brain and spinal cord, causing paralysis (can’t move parts of the body).

WHO had two Millennium Development Goals: halving the number of people who suffer from hunger (for which a key indicator is the prevalence of underweight children) and reducing the mortality rate of children under five years of age by two-thirds. With this in mind they set up building campaigns around the world to start the polio drive by immunising children under the age of 5. India successfully participated in this initiative.

It started in Delhi, with polio drops being given door to door. And the following season the Indian Government had taken up this crusade. Door to door campaigns, information to the public was issued at regular intervals, polio schedules were drawn up to ensure that children below 5 got their doses regularly.

Things were on track till one case popped up in Howrah, West Bengal in 2011. From then on, The Indian Government has been following the directive set by WHO to keep India polio free. So, here’s a feather in our caps for following through for 5 years through. There is some good news around, development is happening, we need to remind ourselves of it more often is all.

Oil & Gas Conservation Fortnight 2017

 

Oil and Gas Conservation Fortnight (OGCF) 2017 starts today {4th January} and continues till the 10th of January. First started in the year 1991, in order to spread awareness about the conservation of petroleum products. This initiative grew from just being the ‘Oil Conservation Week’ to ‘Oil and Gas Conservation Fortnight‘ in 2004 – since the nation-wide campaign was quite successful and new eco-friendly gaseous fuels were being substituted more regularly, that it needed to be conserved as well.

The campaign is conducted with the sponsorship by the entire oil industry under the guidance of ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas. The campaign has two main concern addressed every year:

  1. the need to conserve resources for the future
  2. the environmental fallout from the non-judicious approach to the use of these fossil fuels

Conservation has always been the need of the hour, since we realised how quickly we run through our resources. Oil and Gas, however, do not feature on our ‘list for conservation’, mostly because we take it for granted. We do not realise the amount of wastage nor use of these resources, because of insufficient infrastructure and insufficient daily commodities among all the population.

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On the flip side of the coin, is the mass usage of these fuels affects the environment that we live in. Besides depleting the earth’s reserves, the effluents from the factories, homes, etc are passed into the running waterways – i.e. our streams, rivers, oceans. Lead free petrol not being a must, we end up releasing a lot of gases into the atmosphere, polluting the very air we breathe.

One of the recent wake-up calls, was when Delhi was heavily polluted, making it the world’s first most polluted city in 2016. The population, the smog, the weather change and the indiscriminate bursting of firecrackers during Diwali made the pollution cross 650 µg/m³.  The high level of particulate matter in the air, made it impossible for the city to function efficiently for a few days.

This is not recent news however, the Taj Mahal recorded damage to it’s white facade turning yellow, because of the pollution in the air, which also pointed out the that air pollution was below the WHO standards for human living conditions.

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Every year, this campaign draws more supporters, more concerns and more information to protect not only these resources, but also our lives. Do join in and learn more about this campaign through the Petroleum Conservation Research Association [PCRA] and find out more of their activities to conserve oil and gas this year and for the coming years.

 

Orange the World: UNiTE to End Violence against Women

A little known fact: 1 in 3 women experience physical or sexual violence from someone close to them, or someone they know.

Thus the initiative started by Secretary-General UNiTE to End Violence against Women calls for 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence in 2016 – from the International Day of Violence against Women [25th November] to Human Right’s Day [10th December].

‘Orange the World: Raise Money to End Violence against Women and Girls strongly emphasizes the need for sustainable financing for efforts to end violence against women and girls towards the fulfillment of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Ingrained in us is the inequality of roles, rights, opportunities and attitudes between men and women. It’s something that requires a lot of education, a lot of manpower, a lot of open dialogue to break down these barriers. Most instances, women believe they should be in these unequal positions, since a novel concept being spoken of breaks the balance that has been maintained, and that rocks the boat for most. All across the world, leaders realise that for economic and development of any nation, these injustices need to be worked on. However, they also realise that a lot of funds are required to invest into this initiative. Hence, Orange the World.

Evidence shows that even relatively small-scale investments that are timely and well integrated can bring enormous benefits to women and their communities. Donate to support efforts to end violence against women and girls worldwide.

Join in this campaign, by sharing your photos, messages and videos showing how you orange the world at facebook.com/SayNO.UNiTE and twitter.com/SayNO_UNiTE using #orangetheworld and #16days. Follow the UN Women website for the 16 days of activism from across the globe.

Stereotypes & Prejudice

Prejudice is a burden that confuses the past, threatens the future and renders the present inaccessible. – Maya Agelou

As little children, we have no notion of he, she, it, muslim, hindu, or any specific gender stereotype or any other prejudice for that matter. A child’s viewpoint is very clear cut, do I get fed this? Do I get my way? Do I get to sleep, or eat or play with this? Will this person give me what I want?

Growing up, things change. We know/identify another person based on the way they look, act or talk. We identify an object based on the colours, tastes, etc. in relation to our already formed concepts learned from society.

Blue is for girls, Pink for Boys?! 

Earlier, boys and girls would actually wear white. Before marketers tried to hard sell their wares to mom’s worldwide, little children would wear gender neutral patterns, colours and pinks, blues were never actively segregated. Come early 20th century, the marketers managed to convince the whole world that pink was for girls and blue for boys. Studies have not found any conclusive evidence to support that girls do prefer pink and boys blue. In fact, pink seems to be the most hated colour world over among adults. However, thanks to clothes manufacturers, pink is associated for girls and blue for boys.

Dresses for girls, and Pants for boys

Again, early 1900s and before, white dresses were the clothes that little boys and girls would wear. It was easier to clean (considering they had cloth diapers then). As the child grew older, gender neutral colours were introduced but it was still dresses that both boys and girls wore. Enter clothes manufacturers and their amazing marketing technique and we have dresses and pants introduced. However, early 20th century parents used either or to dress their little children in. Pants were also worn on little girls than just the dresses. Gender neutral seemed to be the theme, till the marketers managed to change things around to the world we know today.

Blocks for boys, Princesses for girls? 

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Those earlier concepts grew from abroad and have entered the Indian mindset as well. It’s become a general concept – pink for girls, blue for boys. It’s worked well for our marketing giants because they can sell you something gender specific and thus make you believe that boys only prefer cars and blocks, while your little girl only wants kitchen utensils and play princesses {oh the irony, because really, princesses don’t lift a finger in the kitchen!}. However, studies unfortunately do not support this claim either. Lego the building blocks giant was once asked by a little girl, that she would love to be an astronaut one day, but the dolls they created were only boys! New-parents worry that their sons discard their cars for the kitchen utensils that they take from their kitchen and start cooking, mimicking the mother. What will society think?!

A boy will become a man, and a girl a woman! 

Gender specific roles have bled into our daily lives. There’s no doubt about it. The manufacturers were geniuses and deserve a pat on their back for the way they have shaped the world. However, the gender specificity they have helped create is creating a world that is divided and more confused. Parents worry when their little boy plays dress up, it’s girl play they say. Most fashion designers are men. A girl plays dinosaur or sports more than cooking and dolls, parents worry. However, many famous anthropologists/zoologists were women. But let’s leave the future where it should be, in the future and look at the present.

Neil DeGrasse once explained to a little girl that while she banged a wooden spoon on a metal tin, her young mind was learning the different sounds she could make on that pot. She was curious and that curiosity would then lead her to more experiments in science. Children experiment in some form or the other, their imagination runs wild and honestly they don’t need too many toys to get them going. Cars could be getting cooked in a pot one day, to a game of dress up in mommy and daddy’s clothes another, to a baking experiment with a dinosaur in mom’s baking tin. Their minds are growing, they are learning – quicker than we give them credit. Giving them the freedom to explore, gives them the freedom to be more open and non-prejudiced.

India a land full of Prejudice?

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We as adults have notions from experience or from our parents/family/friends’ experiences. Despite the gender stereotypes, there are religious, political, national stereotypes as well. You’ve heard them:

  • Fair and tall is beautiful and handsome.
  • Red heads have wild tempers. 
  • Japanese are workaholics and have a stringent work culture. 
  • Brahmins are xenophobic, because they prefer their culture and ways.
  • Christians are drunks. 
  • Muslims are terrorists. 
  • India is the land of rape. 

In India we find we are more judgemental than other countries. Our caste, our religion, our culture, are all reasons for forming opinions without getting to know another person, religion, culture. The statements above we have heard them a time a many, but we don’t bother correcting these notions or learning to look beyond the preconceived notions.

Even dark skinned people are very striking and beautiful – however, our age old notions and cultures believe only a fair woman would make a lovely wife. After the horrific rapes reported in our country, we as a nation put ourselves down worldwide but accepting the tag ‘land of rape’ by perpetuating a notion that every low-socio economic man is a rapist.

Our pride in our country, is lacking. Education about learning about other cultures religions, other people, is lacking. Religious sentiments or respecting another’s religion, is lacking. Believing a prejudice to be true and not bothering to go beyond the prejudice, is appalling. That is the reason gender stereotypes and prejudices set in. We have become a closed group of people, unwilling to look out and learn more.

What we could do?

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There was a viral video recently about a little girl questioning adults notions of what tag lines are appropriate for a girls t-shirt and a boys. Why do people assume girls don’t want adventure as well?  There have been studies done checking how much the stereotype affects them. Girls and boys were given a math quiz and scored fairly well, with a majority of the girls having scored higher. Give the same quiz to a group of students stating girls anyway are bad at math and the girls don’t do so well. We joke about stereotypes without realising the effect they have on other people or even on us, however, like the girl  in that video, we should be questioning prejudices/stereotypes.

  1. Why can’t short be handsome as well? Why is dark not beautiful?
  2. Why are boys better chefs? Why when girls are meant to cook day in and day out, that they don’t become chefs? 
  3. Why are girls expected to give up their career to be a stay at home mom? Why cannot men do the same and let the woman follow her career? 
  4. Why are marketing giants only focused on pink and blue? What about gender neutral colours? 
  5. Why are we sure men perform better academically and provide for the family? 
  6. Can we find out more about another religion without affecting our religious sentiments or theirs? 
  7. Can we find our more about the history of other countries than just the usual?

Education is the key. Learning, spreading and questioning are the keys to breaking these barriers that we have placed on ourselves and others around us.

 

When Words Hurt!

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me!

Remember these words we used to chant as a mantra in school when bullies said mean things to us? Verbal abuse is a powerful powerful weapon. In school yards, playgrounds, offices, even in our homes {domestic violence} – words hurt. We learn that as children we are still adjusting to everyone’s sensibilities and that we are untactful at times. So the easiest weapon then, was to let it roll off your back.

Times are a little different now. With the rise in technological advancements, social media has been booming. Every child of this age understands how to use a smartphone, tablet or computer, at a rather early age at that. Hiding behind a screen, makes even those who are meek, bolder. Thus giving rise to the most problematic trend in our country among the youth – ranking us in the top globally – Cyberbullying.

What is Cyberbullying?
Instead of face to face bullying, it’s bullying from behind electronic technology. Tagging inappropriate photos, tagging and name-calling publicly on the web and spreading rumours are some such examples.

What are the various types of bullying?

  1. Physical – which is violence on another person. Face to face, where a person, or gang of persons hit, pull, break or steal something from another person.
  2. Societal – which involves discriminating against another, spreading rumours or using peer pressure to exclude a person from friendships.
  3. Verbal – which is bullying using hurtful words, name-calling and threats on another person.
  4. Cyber – which is bullying by sending mean texts, prank calls, stalking someone through social media and shaming through the internet.

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Why is Cyberbullying a concern?
According to a survey conducted last year among four other countries, results showed that 81% of children from the age of 8 – 17 years had access to social media sites, with 22% being bullied online, 52% admitted to bullying others and about 70% admitted seeing, understanding bullying online.

Yes, the numbers are shocking, yes India ranks highest on these charts among the other countries. But the cause for concern is that Cyberbulling is particularly vicious. Being behind a screen gives everyone a false sense of security spewing hate or horrible comments, and with the victims spurious rebuttals, it becomes a game that gets engaged in longer and longer.

It affects the victims self esteems and at times affects social lives outside of the cyber world. In a few cases, victims have ended up physically hurting themselves because of this.

Another, main concern is that the level of aggression among the bullied is high, even among the aggressors. This aggression either is used physically on the abusers face to face or the victims turn bullies themselves. A horrific cycle of hurt.

What are the signs of being Cyberbullied?

  1. Avoids use of mobile devices or computers
  2. Suddenly deletes social media accounts
  3. Becomes moodier after receiving emails and/or messages
  4. Is more secretive than usual about online activities
  5. Is reluctant to go to school and avoids social contact
  6. Grades and school performance fall
  7. Appears more frustrated, impatient or angry than usual
  8. Has trouble sleeping

What can be done?

We all know the world is not a safe place, the cyber world is the same. The haunting reality is that the numbers are rising, the aggression online is tripling.

  1. Awareness needs to be built on the subject among students, parents and educators as well. It is prevalent and it affects everyone involved.
  2. Teaching safety is a priority. Children need to learn to protect themselves online and certain rules need to be in place set by the parents.
  3. Keeping communication lines open between parent and child helps when the child needs help about their online activities.

Here is a video that aptly discusses cyberbullying and what to do about it here.

 

Recycling and It’s Importance in Our Current World

Reduce, recycle and reuse. We’ve all heard the call. We know it needs to be done because it does affect everything around us, including us. However, we sometimes miss the reason for the importance of recycling.

What is Recycling? It is essentially converting waste into reusable material. Recycling requires far less energy, fewer natural resources and keeps waste from piling up in our garbage landfills.

What causes waste?

  1. Rising economic conditions makes it easier to buy products that ultimately create waste.
  2. Rising populations means more people create more waste on this planet.
  3. New lifestyle changes such as eating fast food, creates non-biodegradable waste.
  4. New products and technological products being developed contains many products that are non-biodegradable.

Why should we recycle? Recycling is important to the environment as well us;

  1. Recycling helps reduce pollution caused by the waste.
  2. Recycling reduces the need for natural resources, meaning our forests can be preserved a lot longer for the future generations.
  3. Using recycled materials means habitat for wildlife is not damaged.
  4. Recycling requires less energy, thus saving more natural resources for the future.
  5. Waste gets collected in garbage landfills, which currently are overflowing. Recycling helps, since there is less space for the waste in these landfills.
  6. Making products from raw materials costs much more than if they were made from recycled products, making recycling a financially viable option.

Still, why is Recycling important? Follow this example along for why, we need to recycle.
We all know that our oceans cover about 72% of the Earth’s surface. In the recent years, our oceans have become warmer, more acidic, oxygen deprived and most important – Polluted! Our waste in some form or the other eventually ends up in the waterways from our garbage landfills right into the Pacific Ocean garbage patch.

Non-biodegradable plastic materials end up in the stomachs of many sea life creatures {some fish mistakenly assume it is plankton}. Scientists discovered many plastic fragments in the stomachs of lanternfish. Lanternfish are the major food source of tuna and mahi-mahi, which in turn end up on our plates!

Over the past 26 years, glass, plastic bottles, diapers, food packaging, light bulbs, appliances, and many more items containing plastic were found during annual ocean cleanups. 80% of the products thrown away can be recycled, but only 28% are being recycled. In India, many cities do not encourage recycling, other than paper items.

What can you do? Plastic takes 600 years to degrade, meaning it will be around for a long, long time. To help the ecosystem, it’s best to start with plastic. Cut down the use of plastic.

  1. Carry your own bag, cut down on plastic bags and plastic papers.
  2. Recycling furniture or any wooden goods. Reduce and recycle wood products whenever possible.
  3. Going paperless, recycling paper are also good ways to conserve forests.
  4. CDs, DVds, Batteries, appliances, clothing can all be recycled. Find the recycling services you can use in your city to recycle these products.
  5. Encourage recycling among your friends, family and neighbourhood.

Remember – We cannot stop the pile-up of waste, however, we can HELP recycle! Spread the word.

Sources: oceanconservancy.org, greenfacts.org, conserveenergyfuture.com,

Are you Prepared?

We live in a world where the news is at our fingertips. Social media beats out news channels and papers in up to date and opinionated news. Everyone has an opinion, however, not everyone has all the facts. Half information is always a dangerous thing.

In our current climatic landscape with forest fires, earthquakes and other calamities, we need to be prepared. We need to know what needs to be done, we need to be quick thinking in those scenarios and that is only possible if we have the correct and complete information!

What is a ‘Disaster Emergency Kit’ and what does it contain? What do you do when you are trapped in a building during an earthquake? Or for that matter during a building fire? Some times timely intervention from the Government or emergency services is delayed and to survive and protect yourself and those around you, you need to remember these tips.

Be prepared, in this world, thinking ‘It can never happen to you!’ won’t help you when you do find yourself in one of these scenarios. Things happen that are beyond our control, and being informed is always a boon.

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Salient Points: Keeping copies of important documents outside of the home; having an out of town contact to coordinate with during a crisis; Do not spread rumours; Move away from falling objects, breakable objects, etc during cyclones/earthquakes/floods.

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Salient Points: Do not help injured/trapped persons – instead call for emergency services if you do not have training; As part of an organisation – network with other NGOs and government agencies to provide timely and appropriate distribution of relief materials; Make sure gender fair practices are carried out after a crisis as women and children are most vulnerable then.