I have been knowing Mr. Harish Sadani, for over 5 years, as a pioneer and leader in the movement for gender equality in India. In March 1993, Harish co-founded Men Against Violence and Abuse (MAVA), a voluntary organization of sensitive and concerned men to work with Men and Boys on issues of gender-based violence against women, enabling them to and speak for the rights of women to safety and dignity. This is pioneering and significant work in India. Harish has been sensitizing and ‘men’toring hundreds and thousands of young men and adolescent boys across India on issues of gender, masculinity, diversity and sexuality. Harish has been working painstakingly with women’s rights organizations, educational institutions including Universities and Colleges, Civil Society Bodies across India to advocate male involvement for gender equality. I have interacted with Harish and some of his adolescent youth leaders during the course of my shoot of a documentary film based on this work. The film titled ‘Boys Who Like Girls’, directed by me and released a year ago, is being screened to numerous international film festivals and the issues covered in the film are being deliberated. Over the past few years, I have keenly observed Harish’s role in influencing and shaping a significant number of young men in colleges, in rural and urban communities, sensitizing them on gender and toxic masculinity issues, and equipping them to communicate with peers and men in the larger community. Through a unique travelling film festival being run by him (now in its 3 rd year), street-play performances, inter-collegiate meets and competitions, wall newspapers, innovative workshops, annual cultural magazine and social media, Harish has been advancing his work to the hinterlands and cities across India through a dedicated team of 700 plus ignited youth mentors. Harish has been providing safe, non-threatening spaces to young men and women in Universities, Colleges and other educational bodies to open up, exchange thoughts, ideas, dilemmas and experiences on gender, sexuality and toxic masculinity and its impact on women and men, which is so vital in today’s times where crimes against women is alarmingly at a high level in India. This work is finally empowering women and preventing gender-based and sexual violence which is neglected by many stakeholders. This work is also very challenging and hence commendable, in the light of patriarchal forces constantly influencing the subsystems of Indian society. Harish is a strong leader with a Vision and Mission, with a clear strategy and a road- map involving a vast youth population, their lives transformed for a better, healthier tomorrow. I strongly recommend Harish for the World Pulse Spirit Award in view of his notable contribution towards women’s empowerment and human emancipation. I believe that honouring a Man of Substance would inspire many young men and boys to take ownership of issues that are largely seen as ‘‘women’s issues’’.
This story was submitted in response to #SpiritAwards.