Helping each other, talking, staying connected and learning to say no can help women protect themselves and others from rapes and sexual assaults, says Unicef Executive Director Henrietta H. Fore, who suggests that “every community should stand up and say rape is not acceptable”.
“Speaking up, having a voice in the community, having faith-based leaders who intervene and say this is not right, this the way we should treat our girls, women and also that we should never have rape, never have sexual assault or exploitation — all of these things help,” Fore told IANS during a visit here.
She also said behavioural attitudes will only change “if we change our hearts”.
“Another thing which can help is girls helping girls. You talk to each other about what is safe, what is not safe, where you can safely go; that girls know that they can say no and also that they know how and when to say no. That you move in a group of three so that you can protect each other or you can stay connected on email and text. All these will help in changing the attitude and behaviour,” Fore explained.
She also said that the community also plays an important role in giving a sense of respect to girls and women to bring change.
“If every community begins to stand up and say rape is not acceptable then more people will begin to look after women in their community,” Fore said.
She also believed that separate toilets and well-lit spaces, along with community patrolling, also helps.
“If the whole community is protecting their girls, the situation will improve. Every community should stand up and say rape is not acceptable. It takes a nation, it takes a community to stand up for girls and protect them,” she said.
Talking about sanitation in India, she said it has turned into a movement.
“It is a movement here in India and it is something only a few of our countries have seen. But it has changed how Indians feel about sanitation. It is good for the community and also for the quality of life of its people.
“There has been a remarkable progress (in the field of sanitation) in India and those of us who live in other countries are respectful and admiring the leadership exhibited by the Indian government.”
She also said proper toilets will help in empowering women and girls in the community. “This has also helped girls go ahead with higher education.”
“It will not only help in increasing the number of girls going to school but will also help in bringing drop-outs back to school. Bringing girls back to school will be a great achievement for the society,” she added.
The movement, she added, will need to continue until it achieves 100 per cent of its target.
“Just building toilets is not enough. We need to have trained people and good technology to maintain these toilets.”
She also said good sanitation practices in India had led to lower deaths among children under five and has also helped in bringing up healthier children.
“Fewer children are getting diseases, fewer children are getting vulnerable. The sanitation movement in India has helped save more lives,” Fore maintained.