2019 Raksha Bandhan Saw Sisters Tie #MeToo Rakhis To Open Up About Their Trauma Of Sexual Abuse

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The festival of Raksha Bandhan has been prevalent in Indian society for centuries. The primordial tradition carried the essence of the beautiful virtues of love and care. However, in an inherently patriarchal society of the medieval times, ‘Rakhi’ came to be recognised as an occasion where women ceremoniously thank their brothers for being their eternal protectors or ‘Rakshak’. With time, the patriarchal undertone of the festival have faded, and Raksha Bandhan has evolved to be a celebration of the deep love between siblings. 

At present times, women in India are no longer safe, continually being at the helm of sexual abuse, harassment and misdemeanour by the opposite sex. The notion of men being their protectors holds dated today, especially at a time when even male family members are not hesitating to abuse the girls and women in their families. The ongoing Me Too movement has given the necessary attention to the plight of the women survivors, who struggle with their trauma often for years. 

Priyal, an artist and poet from Goa, decided to blend the age-old tradition together with the voice of the Indian woman. Thus was born the Me Too Rakhis – aimed to be a symbol of trust, empathy and a promise to put an end to the abuse.

No one has ever become poor by giving
– Anne Frank

The Me Too Bro campaign

The concept of Me Too Rakhis was birthed in 2018 and has evolved to a much larger scale this year. The star of the event is undoubtedly the Me Too Bro Rakhis – which sisters would tie around their brothers’ hands. The fundamental idea is to welcome the brothers to a gender-neutral platform for survivors of abuse. By donning the Me Too Bro Rakhi, a brother automatically vows to denounce the sense of ‘ownership’ of his sister, instead be an active supporter of her freedom and choices. At the same time, he ideally becomes integrated into the cohort of Me Too supporters, who condemn abuse in each and every form.

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The Rakhis come with the tagline – “This Raksha Bandhan, Let Your BRO Know What You Need Protection From.” Each of the Me Too Bro rakhis come with a heartfelt letter to the brother, urging them to consider their own ‘thoughts and actions’ with other women and always prioritise respect for the opposite sex.

It could be something as simple as laughing at rape jokes,  gawking at a woman on the street or enjoying objectification of women on the silver screen – these simple actions often go a long way in developing a misogynistic mindset. “When a sister is tying a Me Too Rakhi around her brother’s wrists, it is a moment of introspection for the brother whether his activities or actions are somehow nourishing the culture of sexual abuse,” reveals Priyal.

To Create A Network Of Support & Love

“Instead of upholding the pseudo idea of protection, if men strive to create a safer space for women by controlling their own actions, then we do not need protection after all,” she explains.

Amid the depravity of present times, the Me Too Rakhis vouch to create a network of empathy and support, allowing survivors to open up about their trauma to someone they trust closely, be it a friend or a family member – on whose wrists they choose to tie the beautiful and unique Rakhis.

“The campaign endeavours to create a secure space to begin conversations about abuse and harassment. And what better way to convey the message than a beautiful festival which nurtures love and care at its core?” Priyal adds.

This is why the relevance of the Me Too Rakhis do not stay limited to one day of the year; rather they can be worn and tied around all year long, whenever someone decides to open up to a caring soul about their agony of abuse.

Me Too Rakhis Are Completely Sustainable

The Me Too Rakhis are simplistic and elegant, sporting the powerful phrase in big, brave letters. Sans ornate embellishments or motifs, the Rakhis stand out in their own uniqueness, accentuated by the fact that they are entirely eco-friendly.

“Each of the rakhis is handmade from tetra packs and jeans, up-cycled in the process” – reads the description on their Facebook page. The sustainable rakhis are handmade, carefully curated by a group of eight women from Anjuna village in Goa.

The ‘Main Bhi’ Rakhis

The Me Too movement has taken the world by storm, with social media being a hotspot for starting the much-needed discussions and actions against sexual abuse, molestation and harassment. In cityscapes of India, thousands of women have come forward to open up about their #MeToo experience over Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other forums.

However, a substantial number of women from less privileged backgrounds are often victims of regular domestic atrocities and sexual violence. Hailing from remote villages and bred in toxic patriarchal communities, their screams for help are seldom heard. The #MeToo outrage is yet to make inroads in their lives.

Me Too Rakhis

Taking their horrific distress into consideration, perhaps for the first time, the makers of Me Too Rakhis have come up with ‘Main Bhi’ Rakhis – a vernacular version with the same aim.

Non-English speakers can identify with the concept easily and finally have a chance to make themselves heard.

A Future Society Free Of Abuse

The true goal of the Me Too Rakhis is to sprout a society so beautiful and balanced, where the need for a Me Too movement becomes redundant. However, that day is a long way into the future. As of now, the Me Too Rakhis envision to take the #MeToo movement to its apex and uproot the whole culture of abuse.

Raksha Bandhan might have been over a week ago, but the Rakhis will be available throughout the year at this link: https://www.instamojo.com/MeTooRakhi

For more details, visit their Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/metoorakhi/

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It's not how much we give
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- Mother Theresa Quote

A Group Of Karnataka Women Pushes Alcoholic, Abusive Husbands & Social Stigma Aside, Earns Through Recycling Workshop

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At thirteen, Neela was married off to a husband much older than her. At sixteen, she became a mother, and at nineteen, she was a widow. Despite having no regular income, she was faced with the daunting task of taking care of her in-laws, her own parents and of course, her little daughter. For young Neela, life has never known a trajectory where her voice is heard and her destiny is not blamed. That was until she came under the ambit of Hosa Belaku Artisan’s Foundation and discovered a new identity for herself. The taste of financial independence was indeed delightful for her, but her zeal to work hard for a newer, better life stood at the helm of it all.

No one has ever become poor by giving – Anne Frank

Founded by Kameshwari from Bengaluru, the foundation works with distressed women in three Karnataka villages, helping them to earn their livelihood by handcrafting a wide range of decorative or daily-use household items. Like Neela, nineteen women with struggles similar or worse, have found a new lease of life at Hosa Belaku Artisan’s Foundation. Every piece of item created at Hosa Belaku is recycled from leftover fabrics, paper, dry waste or scrap metals.

Hosa Belaku – a new dawn

“I have been working in the social sector for the past two decades. Since 2013, I got associated with Belaku Trust, who was working with rural women in Karnataka,” shares Kameshwari, a former legal executive. 

“Most of these women were victims of alcohol abuse and harassment on the domestic front. Some were widowed, single mothers or differently-abled – making life all the more hard for them in a patriarchal society. Unfortunately, circumstances led Belaku Trust to close their operations in 2015. The women were left in a lurch,” she narrates.

Some of these women desperately pleaded with Kameshwari to let them sustain their only source of income and independence. Moved by their plight, Kameshwari resolved to do her best to help as many women as possible. Investing a sizeable proportion of her own savings, she launched the Hosa Belaku Artisan’s Foundation in 2017.

At present, the foundation has active workshops in three villages in the suburbs of Bengaluru, namely, Halasuru, Achalu and Kadahalli. 

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The gritty women of Hosa Belaku

At the prime of her life, Pavithra’s husband left her for another woman. Heartbroken and devastated, she was clueless about how to earn her living. The story is similar for many other women in these villagers, with careless, abusive or estranged husbands, most being alcohol addicts. The pangs of poverty would sometimes become more unbearable than the constant physical abuse by their husbands. Yet, they had no way to have some respite from the ordeal. Few women did work seasonally as agricultural labourers. The backbreaking toil in the sun would take a toll on their health, while the deplorable situation at their homes would haunt them for the rest of the year.

Empower Poor Women To Rise Out Of Poverty

Kameshwari mortgaged her jewelery for Rs 6 lakh to start Hosa Belaku Artisian's Foundation. Most of the women employed in this foundation face domestic violence in their homes. Kindly donate here : bit.ly/hosabelaku

Posted by Efforts For Good on Sunday, July 21, 2019

Society, with its primitive doctrines, only made it worse for these women. For instance, nobody was willing to marry Shivlingi because she had a facial deformity. After a point, her own brothers abandoned her as if she had become a liability.

If one visits these women now, they would be found basking in their newfound success with Hosa Belaku. But, not only the women, Hosa Belaku’s workforce comprises a 19-year-old young man as well. All his life, Yogi, who is affected by Polio, had accompanied his mother everywhere. She used to work with the foundation until she recently passed away in an accident. Yogi’s father is visually-challenged, so the entire family received a major emotional and financial setback after his mother’s sudden demise. A helpless Yogi would painstakingly drag himself from door to door in search of work. “We took him in and trained him in toy-making. Now you would find him in a corner, making beautiful toys for children,” shares a proud Kameshwari.

Sunshine, Lamp and Dawn – Illuminating lives

The women groups at the three villages are designated with three unique names and assigned with a unique task each. Kirana (Sunshine), the group at Kadahalli is involved with paper products, making notepads, bags and jewellery.

The Halsuru group Deepa (Lamp) has adopted the art of block printing. Vibrant, stylish and beautiful handbags, cushion covers, stoles and notebooks are curated with the utmost care and precision by the women.

At Ushe (Dawn), needle and thread rules. Women who were already skilled in sewing and embroidery now earn by making stuffed toys, patchwork products and embroidered fabrics.

True to their names, the groups have indeed brought new light into the lives of their employees.

Suma and Jayamma are both senior workers at Kirana who have succeeded in constructing small concrete houses for themselves, a huge step up from the dilapidated huts they spent their youth in. Another aged lady in the same group has another compelling achievement to be proud of. Bearing the taunts and trauma from her drunkard husband all her life, she has single-handedly raised a son and a daughter with proper education. Her son, who is currently an aspiring engineer, was supported with a laptop from Hosa Belaku. Honamma, a young widow from the group Deepa is treading a similar path, raising her son all on her own.

The only solace

How much gratitude these women have towards Hosa Belaku is perhaps evident from Shri’s unwavering dedication. Diabetes is taking a toll on her eyesight yet she refuses to give up and continues etching her grit on the ornate block-printed fabrics.

The reason for such gratitude is manifold. For the conscious urban consumers, Hosa Belaku is striving to save the environment with their 100%-recycled policy. But, for the workers, it is the lifeline which not only offers them economic security but also allows them a place to voice, share and resolve the problems plaguing their lives.

“They come here and find a peaceful break from their household obligations. Some still face domestic violence regularly, the workshop is an escape for them. They discuss their issues and try to find feasible solutions. It takes the load off their tired minds. The work here is a breath of fresh air for them,” Kameshwari asserts.

“We have been assisted time and again by established non-profits and retail chains across Bengaluru, who have graciously showcased and marketed products made by our artisans. We would like more people to know about Hosa Belaku and its incredible women, and respect their brilliant spirit by purchasing their crafts,” Kameshwari expresses her wish.

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Quote
It's not how much we give
but how much love we put into giving.
- Mother Theresa Quote
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