November 21st, 2017 by Dhivyaa Thamil Chelvan
As we juggle the commitments of our chaotic lives, it is often impossible to set aside time to mark special occasions – except for DAWN’s (Direct Action for Women Now) Diwali gala. Though the evening may not have been picked up by the news, it was very near and dear to many hearts as we celebrated a marvellous holiday and a great cause.
Over 100 esteemed guests, dressed elegantly in traditional Indian attire gathered in unison to support the remarkable cause of promoting gender equality on Saturday, the 4th of November at Beech Street Centre, Belmont. With the help of our very own Purnima Thakre, DAWN designed and executed the Diwali fundraising event which featured speeches about social justice awareness, a vegetarian Indian dinner, a short-film screening, a live dance performance of ‘ASMI’ by the Aakrithi ensemble, a networking dinner, and music.
The highlights of the evening included a pledged commitment by many men in the audience to confront sexual violence after an enlightening talk by Comedian activist Ben Atherton-Zemmer, and ‘ASMI’ – a graceful dance performance choreographed by Urmi Samadar – which celebrated many facets of a woman, such as her inner calm, youthful exuberance, strength and wisdom, infusing lyrical and modern dance based on the classical Indian Kathak and Odissi repertoire.
The DAWN team members and the evening’s speakers, including Geetha Aiyer, Gauri Adelkar, and Dr. Sujatha Warrier, elucidated the organization’s approaches to addressing gender inequality by Addressing Public Attitudes, Training the healers (The HEAL program), and Engaging Men & Boys. Dr. Sujatha Warrier, the evening’s keynote speaker, addressed the essential importance of leveraging American knowledge and experience to help train India’s frontline social workers on victim-centric care and educating the broader public. “In many parts of India, talking about sex is considered taboo (…) and the topic is widely ignored,” Dr. Warrier said, adding that, “ending gender-based violence in India will require social change at the deepest level.”
DAWN recognizes that society’s perpetuation of an unequal distribution of power between men and women is the root cause of gender-based violence in India. To combat this, the organization has funded the creation of a film, ‘Raising Men’ which highlights the work of one of their partner organizations, MAVA (Men Against Violence and Abuse) on combating sexism in Mumbai through educating young men. The trailer of the film was screened at the event and the film is being used as a teaching tool.
The event’s fundraising efforts were further enhanced by a pledge drive and volunteer sign up activities. The DAWN team gladly shared additional detail with the guests and showed ways to get involved with the organization.
The evening was a remarkable success and the event raised over $15,000. The funds from the evening will help DAWN in India train social workers and organizations that educate young men on gender inequality, as well as set up shelters and helplines for victims, train local police on how to effectively help rape victims, and other efforts to challenge harmful gender-based violence.
Purnima concluded the event by giving thanks to the DAWN board of directors and team, volunteers, the refine+focus team, and the generous contributors. The event was a testament to Diwali as it acknowledged a hope to eradicate the evil behind gender-based violence and illuminate a hopeful path to the future for many.