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This Raksha Bandhan, Sisters are Tying Their Brothers #MainBhi Rakhi to Talk to Them About #MeToo

A step toward inclusivity.

Rakhi Bose | @theotherbose

Updated:October 12, 2018, 12:52 PM IST
This Raksha Bandhan, Sisters are Tying Their Brothers #MainBhi Rakhi to Talk to Them About #MeToo
A step toward inclusivity.
The last year has been the year of #MeToo. And with Raksha Bandhan around the corner, a Goa-based artist and poet has come up with a unique way to take the movement to every Indian household.

Meet Priyal Woodpecker, who has recently launched the #MeTooBro campaign that aims to bring the worldwide conversation about sexual abuse closer home to young Indian men and their role in violence and abuse against women.

“We often think of Raksha Bandhan as the festival where brothers will pledge their sisters protection. But these same boys go out and disrespect or hurt other women. So I decided to address this contradiction at a more direct level,” Priyal told News18 from Goa.

She and her associates have together made 500 Rakhis with #MainBhi written on them. Along with each Rakhi is attached a 1500-word long letter addressed to the brother. The idea is to tell boys that to make the world truly safe for their sisters, they had to ensure to not misbehave with other women themselves. The idea borrows from the tenet of teaching boys not to rape rather than teaching women how not to get raped.

Priya said that she chose to use Raksha Bandhan to talk about abuse because the bond between a brother and a sister is a powerful one, and a brother is traditionally expected to protect the sister. Yet, in India where all relationships exist within a force-field of patriarchy and subversion, protection often ends up being enforced upon unwilling women in the name of protection. While it is important to support one’s sibling, enforced protection of sisters rings of patriarchy and never allow the woman to learn to lead her life with independence and agency.

These are all issues that the letter addresses. The text also discusses what Priyal called the 'fear of feminism'. The Rakhis themselves are made from discarded jeans cloth which is then decked with tikli work, a locally known craft among women.

“I got the idea of taking the conversation forward in regional languages after I involved Rangeela, my cook, in this process. The #MeToo movement was phenomenal in terms of its reach and impact. But still, women from rural regions such as Rangeela are often unaware of such conversations. So we came up with the #MainBhi rakhis, lettered in Hindi,” Priyal said.

It is important for women like Rangeela to be aware of their rights and of the worldwide conversation regarding sexual abuse, said Aishwarya Guha, a media professional who has been helping Priyal with research and ideations of the campaign.

"In a country like ours, where sexual aggression and violence have been absolutely normalized, we need to have these conversations again and again. This particular campaign all the more, because most such conversations stop at an urban level, never really reaching the heartlands, where lessons in feminism are all the more important. We are hoping that with #MainBhi, we at least are able to give young women the little bit of agency that will allow them to start a conversation. That's always the first step, isn't it? We're all drawing from each others courage and making the resistance inclusive," Guha said.

The Rakhis have been shipped to several online stores, and are being sold at Rs 50 a piece (Rs 70 if ordered online). Priyal was quick to add that though most of the proceeds would only end up covering costs of transportation and packaging, adding that she planned to sell the Rakhis at no profit and ensure that profits, if any, shall be forwarded to Rngeela.

While this year is just a tester, Priyal plans to take the initiative forward and create a bigger batch next year with #MainBhi written in more vernacular languages to increase reach. She also wants the campaign to turn into a larger initiative so that it could provide local women artisans like Rangeela a living.
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