Apart from the rally, campaigns and competitions will be held in seven colleges in the city as part of the initiative.

Equ-All A rally for gender equality in Thiruvananthapuram on June 14All images courtesy: Kalyani Vallath
news Gender Sunday, June 10, 2018 - 17:21

The boys wanted to leave, they were not interested. The girls stayed only because there were going to be prizes.

Kalyani Vallath knew it was not going to be easy when she came to University College in Thiruvananthapuram to talk about a ‘Gender Equality Rally’. She put together some competitions and little prizes so they’d at least listen to what she had to say. With her was Shyama, a transgender person who had completed her higher studies and reached a good place, fighting her way through life for mere acceptance.

Once Shyama’s speech was over, the boys who had wanted to leave did not go anywhere and the girls were crying. Kalyani, who was also in tears listening to Shyama, knew then that she had made at least a small impact and that this gender rally could actually mean something more than a day’s walk to be forgotten later.

Shyama

“Her (Shyama’s) speech was an eyeopener. Most of us had not interacted with a transgender person so closely before. For many, transgender people meant the hijras you see on trains to north India. Shyama spoke of the days when everyone else in her class pointed fingers at her because she was different, when even the professor would use her as an example to talk about Shikhandi of Mahabharata. Many trans people could not be so bold. They discontinue their education, get beaten up and are branded mad,” Kalyani says feelingly, sitting at her institute, Vallaths Total English Solutions or TES.

The idea for the gender rally came, she says, when her students at TES approached her to do something about all the abuse of women you hear and read about every day. Let’s do a rally, they said. Kalyani, however, had her misgivings – how many of these 150 students would actually turn up. It was monsoon time too. She asked them, why not do a rally for all the genders, make it a gender equality walk?

So then it became that – ‘Equ-All’, a non-profit initiative by people from all walks of life to make society sit up and take note of issues related to gender and sexuality. As part of the initiative, there will be campaigns and competitions held in seven colleges in and around Thiruvananthapuram. The walk itself will happen on June 14, from Manaveeyam Veedi at 3 pm.

“It’s not just my students. Lots of others have joined. Queerythm and Oasis, groups for the LGBTIQ community, are organising it with us. There is also support from Sakhi Women’s Resource Centre and Nireeksha, a women’s theatre group,” Kalyani says.

Kalyani Vallath

It could not, of course, end with a walk. It had to go on. So then another suggestion came from the students. Why not have a print campaign with people writing an ‘It happened to me’ piece on paper, like it used to appear in Tinkle Digest? Kalyani liked the idea. Social media campaigns were all too many these days and becoming stale too. But a print campaign would be novel.

“The piece would be about gender related experiences. It needn’t be just about oppression but anything related to gender. It can be in Malayalam or English, any language you like to express in. It can be incomplete fragments too,” Kalyani says.

The organisers are keeping boxes in colleges for people to put in their stories. And later it would be published as a book, written by anonymous people from across the country. There can be studies on the stories, Kalyani hopes, and discussions.

People who take part in the rally will become better human beings, Kalyani is sure. They will think twice before oppressing someone in terms of gender. As of now, few seem interested.

“Men have this idea that anything gender-related is for women, it’s got nothing to do with them. And women are sceptical. One big question was – will a road rally really help society? For this is an issue that starts with the family. Educated people have said they are against the rally because in a state like Kerala, nothing will happen. To that, we have come up with a beautiful analogy: Darkness may still exist, but let there be another sunrise,” Kalyani smiles.

Also read: Kerala baby has miraculous escape after cradle blows away in the wind

Show us some love and support our journalism by becoming a TNM Member - Click here.