Hi my name is Emily and I’m DAWN’s new Program Associate. As a rising Senior at Tufts University majoring in International Relations with a minor in Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies, I spend a lot of my time thinking and learning about the issues DAWN seeks to address. Throughout my academic career at Tufts, one of the biggest challenges I keep coming across is a tension between the concepts of international human rights and respect for the cultures of local populations. Oftentimes people claim that respecting a culture means permitting actions that fall under the category of gender-based violence. DAWN recognizes that this false dichotomy allows for the continuation of abuse against women when, in reality, respecting a culture means respecting the lives of all of the people that are a part of it, including the lives of women.
India has a rich, multi-faceted culture rooted in centuries of history; it has maintained its core identity while changing and reshaping as time has passed. This country is not a monolithic unit; each state has its own customs and, furthermore, individual communities have their own practices. I was drawn to DAWN because unlike other non-governmental organizations (NGOs), DAWN takes all of these factors into account and uses them to enrich the lives of both women and men in India. DAWN recognizes that culture is not static, and uses this knowledge to work with its partners to craft a new culture and worldview that builds women up and opens new opportunities for them. This new order envisioned by DAWN also demands that men hold themselves accountable for their actions, a task that is being addressed through our partnership with MAVA (Men Against Violence and Abuse).
DAWN’s attention to intersectionality has been inspiring for me. Intersectionality is the profound way a person’s different identities or labels (such as female, Indian-American, or middle class) interact with one another to shape his/her/their experiences. These experiences include people’s reactions towards or relationships with a person. Through DAWN’s Train-the-Trainers program, attention to the diverse lived experiences of different women in India plays a large role in teaching the trainers how to provide holistic support for victims of sexual assault. The trainers that attend these conferences then go back to their home bases and further tailor their responses and help for women when instructing social workers and doctors in their area.
Attendees Participating in a Workshop at the FPAI/DAWN Conference
DAWN’s vision of the future is a brighter one I am happy to be working towards. Our team here at DAWN is currently very busy in India working with local organizations Centre for Enquiry into Health and Allied Themes (CEHAT), the Family Planning Association of India (FPAI), and Men Against Violence and Abuses (MAVA).
DAWN and CEHAT just held an event in Mumbai that trained doctors, nurses and counselors from public hospitals all over the state of Maharashtra on GBV prevention and care. We also recently finished up a conference with FPAI and a roundtable event with MAVA.
The monsoons are pouring down in Mumbai but the weather hasn’t dampened our energy! Keep an eye out for the more details to come about our busy summer!