While the air we breathe deteriorates, millions continue to survive in poverty, and a host of massive global and local matters fight for our concern and attention, it is easier to look at the world stumbling, crawling, and lurching forward from behind the glass boxes protecting us. Each day, media houses one-up each other by serving stories that aim to ignite a raging fire inside our hearts; as soon as the screens turn off and the paper is folded away, the sparks mellow down into embers and eventually disappear. Are we simply callously indifferent?
Perhaps, there is more to the story.
This year, I had the opportunity to work on a social campaign called ‘Pravahkriti’, raising awareness about Menstrual Health, Hygiene, and Awareness. While periods are a process every fertile woman goes through each month, the reluctance to address the issues and taboos surrounding it has always irked me— and that’s what our team focussed on overcoming. As part of this, we have been visiting government schools, conducting awareness-building activities in our own school, setting up stalls and fundraisers, and much more. Out of all, the experiences I value most are the ones that frustrated me to no end.
For instance, at our citizen survey in a public fair, some women would listen to our message of period positivity, glance towards their partners for their approval to fill our survey, and walk away when their partners subtly shook their heads in denial. Others would read every question on the form–– even praise our endeavour!––and still, choose to leave. Such incidents, although not large in number, repeated themselves in varying forms at our stall and fundraiser.
These don’t reflect plain indifference— they also reflect an unwillingness to address ‘controversial’ issues, reluctance to devote time to something extraneous to oneself, and a severe lack of agency, especially among females, to take a stand and speak up.
The truth is, living in and serving one’s society is a complicated business— because society consists of people.
People are kind and compassionate. They support good work wholeheartedly, appreciate noble efforts, and want to believe that they are benefiting their fellow humans and the planet.
People are selfish and lazy. They have their own lives to live, a multitude of problems waiting to be attended at home, and a miserly attitude towards spending on something that doesn’t immediately show tangible results.
People are self-respecting and stubborn. They don’t like to be treated as ‘charity-cases’, talked to patronisingly, or told that the opinions they’ve held and the rituals they’ve practised traditionally are fundamentally flawed.
People are timid and non-confrontational. They prefer avoiding conflict, often aren’t empowered to speak up for themselves without anyone else’s permission, and would like to tolerate things as they are.
This makes social work akin to walking a tightrope between convincing people to give, convincing others to take, convincing everyone involved to change their mindsets, and convincing yourself that what you’re doing is right and will eventually bear fruit. It’s all worth it, though.
Similar to the multifarious aspects of social work, the issue ‘The Social Conscience’ encompasses a variety of perspectives— from exploring what it is to be a unique individual in a community, to considering what the Holocaust can teach modern-day society. Hopefully, it will succeed in making you pause and think before you move on with your day.
Here’s to yet another year of existing! May the next one welcome you and your family with open arms.
~Ananya Grover4 Likes