viernes, 31 de julio de 2015

Using the Power of Fashion to Counter Gender Violence

What is the World Bank doing sponsoring a fashion show, as models 
sashayed in various shades of blue down the ramp in Mumbai, India, this March?

The event, called the Blue Runway, marked the launch of the
  Bank’s WEvolve program, which aims to empower young 
men and women to challenge societal norms that lead to 
gender-based violence. The color blue was used to represent
 a call to action against gender-based violence – from both
 men and women – and the program uses power of the creative 
industries – including fashion, digital and social media, performing
 arts, film, music etc. – to create awareness and drive social change.

The concept was visualized by Maria Correia, Manager for Social
 Development in South Asia, and one of the Bank’s leading 
advocates on gender issues. It is based on the premise that 
young people can ‘evolve’, develop new attitudes and behaviors, 
and build healthy relationships that reduce the risk of gender violence.

While the subject is still taboo in many parts of the world, 
the statistics point to a grim reality: the World Health Organization (WHO) 
estimates that more than one billion women – or 35 percent of 
women worldwide - have faced, or will face, intimate partner 
violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime.

And the problem does not affect just women alone. 
Violence against men, which is both under-researched
 and under-reported, is a closely related issue.

Calling young people to action through the creative arts

The Mumbai show had all the makings of a blockbuster.
 Hollywood actor Rosario Dawson and an all-star Bollywood 
cast – Kajol, Huma Qureshi, Sridevi, Deepika Padukone, 
Jacqueline Fernandez and Farhan Akhtar, to name a 
few – came together in a strong show of support. 

The clothes were designed by one of India’s leading 
fashion designers - Manish Malhotra - and the front 
row seats were packed with well-known designers and
 some of India’s most prominent personalities from the 
social, media and entertainment worlds. 

While the models carried banners about empowerment 
and equality, the stars talked and tweeted about the issue.

“Young men and women have the opportunity to influence, 
challenge and change social norms,” said Correia. “Today’s 
social media and the fast-growing digital world give them a
 reach and power that is unmatched in history. WEvolve helps 
to open their minds and provides them the tools and language to 
become the leaders of a new era, engage their peers and elders, and
 think and act differently.”

Designer Manish Malhotra explained the role that fashion can play 
in helping addresses gender violence: “Fashion has a comprehensive 
and universal appeal and can be a powerful instrument to raise awareness
 and promote action.”

But WEvolve is not just about fashion. WEvolve’s social media channels
have been effective in getting young South Asian men and women
 to engage in a discussion about social norms and violence. 
The series of videos have seen over 400,000 views combined,
 and reached over 3.5 million people across the globe.

WEvolve has also reached out to local partners such as the 
New Delhi’s Pearl Academy of Fashion, engaging students 
and their creative talents on the important issue of gender violence.

Engaging men 

 Another innovative aspect of WEvolve is its focus
 on engaging men. This diverges from conventional gender programs
 in two important ways. First, it goes beyond the traditional focus 
on women by targeting men directly and not simply “including” or 
“engaging” them. Second, it not only empowers women – it empowers
 men too, but not by giving them more power over women; rather by
 empowering them to challenge prevailing gender norms of behavior. 

“At WEvolve, we believe that men are integral to the change 
process, and understanding what drives them to use violence is 
central to halting it,” said Gary Barker, director of Promundo, a 
WEvolve partner, and a leading voice on engaging men and boys
 for promoting gender equality.

This approach is already proving successful as, interestingly, the 
majority of the people who are registering and commenting on the 
program’s Facebook page and website are men (, 
said Hiska Reyes, the program’s coordinator. 

What’s next?

WEvolve’s South Asia team is already establishing new partnerships
 with creative organizations. This includes Ram Devineni, a New York
 based filmmaker and publisher, who, deeply affected by the heinous 
rape that rocked India in December 2012, created the reality comic book 
‘Priya’s Shakti’ – or Priya’s Power. The comic shows how Priya, a rape 
survivor and now a new Indian “superhero”, motivates people to change 
their ways through the power of persuasion. (The comic received the 2015
 Tribeca Film Institute New Media Fund from the Ford Foundation.) With Ram, 
the WEvolve team is exploring the design and implementation of comic 
book workshops in schools and communities across India where young men 
and women can talk about the issues affecting them, particularly gender violence,
 while engaging in a creative medium. Other initiatives include engaging the 

As WEvolve unfolds and spreads beyond South Asia, it hopes to encourage
 more people to speak up, share inspiring stories, and take strong action to end 
the scourge of gender violence. 

WEvolve works in a global partnership with international and national 
organizations, private sector companies, NGOs, and foundations working 
on ending gender violence. Partners include Breakthrough, CARE International,
 Cornell University, Ogilvy, Pearl Academy, Population Foundation, Promundo,
 Show of Force, UNWomen and the World Bank. 

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