What began as a journey to achieve justice, eventually evolved into something so much bigger. Bhanravi Devi’s confront with the society that tabooed her, joined with Vishakha and strived to create a work environment where women felt safe.
The POSH (Prevention of Sexual harassment) committee, at PUKAR is something that has birthed from the reminiscent of this 26 year long struggle. Only, PUKAR has adopted a gender neutral mannerism of the same including both male and female employees in the program. It was established in 2017, and every year the employees join hands to revisit and renew their understanding of it with creative and refreshing activities. This year too, was no exception. It was headed by Shrutika Shitole, who herself is a proud member of the POSH committee. Conducted at PUKAR’s main office on 20th May 2019, it was attended by 17 staff members.
This revisit although, wasn’t in a typical PPT format, with colourful placards and florescent balls, the activity at the end had everyone up on their toes. Arranged in a beautiful design on the floor, everyone’s eyes fell on the placards with at once, trailing the history, importance and reasons behind the existence of the committee. The placards laid down simple clear words, explain the concepts so much better than the old fashioned handouts. After understanding the history and importance, it was time to establish what exactly sexual harassment was. It was related to any act of indecency, right from inappropriate texting and staring to physical assault. Later, the question of what constitutes the workplace was also understood, how it didn’t necessarily mean only the place you work at, but rather, the travel to your workplace and its branch offices.
The explanation of the terms, of how the person who is harassed is the ‘aggrieved individual’ and the accused is the ‘respondent’, was also understood. It was followed by how every employee whether part time or full time was eligible to approach this committee. The complaint in the appropriate format could be registered to POSH by the aggrieved individual himself/herself, or by a friend, colleague or a family member. Only, this was to be done within 3 months after the incident takes place. This complaint then would be addressed by the committee and the resulting action would be taken in 7 days. Its reciprocal from the respondent could come in various ways, in the form of an apology letter or even termination depending on the gravity of the situation, keeping in mind that both the complaint and the response needs to be written and not just oral. In case of a much more serious accusation, the police are involved, while POSH stands firmly beside the aggrieved individual. But just as firmly with the respondent in case the accusation turns out to be false.
After the explanation reached it end, a carpet was draped over the placards on the floor and the staff was divided into two teams. It was time for the final showdown. The quiz at the end of the session easily peeked everyone’s curiosity. With high spirits and enthusiasm, both teams rolled up their sleeves, eager to begin. A few shy to talk at first, but soon were hollering to back up their teammates. By the second round there were answers, florescent balls and multi-papers being launched in the air. Finally, one team was declared the winner. They all stood shoulder to shoulder grinning, proud to show they newly earned ‘Messenger of POSH’ tags and red ribbons, while the loosing team had made their own ‘Avengers of POSH’ cards in celebration.
In the end, everyone departed with big smiles, knowing that the responsibility of making a truly gender friendly environment was also on their shoulders along with POSH. Creativity and knowledge once again worked hand in hand to spread awareness, to enrich not only one’s own knowledge but also each other’s.