Mallika Dutt works at the level of culture to prevent violence against women and girls.
Mallika Dutt was born in Calcutta and grew up in a crowded home with lots of boys. As a result, she says that she grew up as a tomboy. She wanted to do what the boys were doing and resisted traditional roles for girls, especially cooking or sewing. She also resisted the idea of marriage. She wanted to craft her own path, which led to obtain a degree from Mount Holyoke College.
At Mount Holyoke she found the encouragement she needed to blaze her unique trail. This led her to pursue a law degree and to work in several organizations focusing on human rights, civil rights and social justice. She started organizations in New York. She found her way back to India where she was the Human Rights Program Officer for the Ford Foundation.
It was while she was at the Ford Foundation that she began to focus on culture change and how to transform the norms that lead to human rights. In 2000, as Mallika was focusing on the role of culture in perpetuating violence against women and girls, she produced an album and a video that brought attention to this important issue. And so, her organization, Breakthrough was born.
The Problem of Violence against Women and Girls
A few days before I spoke with Mallika Dutt of Breakthrough, news broke that Brock Turner had received what most saw as a light sentence for rape. Around the world people were outraged about violence against women and girls, campus safety, rape culture, male privilege, race privilege, and the criminal justice system. And, in just a few news cycles, the conversation moved on to other topics.
Violence against women and girls is a massive problem. Prior to the rape by Brock Turner, there was, on average one rape every two weeks on Stanford’s campus. One in three women, around 35%, will experience physical or sexual violence. Violence against women and girls is not a women’s issue. It is a human issue. Violence can only exist in a culture that allows and supports it.
The Solution to Violence against Women and Girls
Breakthrough is a global human rights organization whose mission is to make violence against women and girls unacceptable. They bring together media, arts and technology with community engagement in order to help people examine the gender norms that leads to violence and discrimination.
Quotes from Mallika Dutt about Violence against Women and Girls
“It isn’t enough to deal with the problem after the problem has occurred.”
“Culture is like the sea that we swim in.”
“I was born a feminist.”
“In 1999 I really started to grapple with this idea of culture change.”
“All of a sudden, this experiment was showing results.”
“How we treat each other as human beings is the basis on which we build all of our other systems and processes and structures.”
Social Entrepreneurship Resources:
- Breakthrough: http://us.breakthrough.tv/
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