Break the Cycle met with five professional dating and sexual violence advocates from South India in our D.C. office on Friday, March 20th to discuss using social media to create public campaigns and to support the development of healthy relationships and their work. These amazing advocates are here as part of a program through the State Department, and chose Break the Cycle as a stop in their tour.
We were honored to speak with the following advocates:
- Ms. Abdul Salam Bismitha, a civil judge in Srivaikuntam
- Ms. Aslam Ahmed Basha Fathima Sulthana, a legal advisor for Steps Women’s Development Organization
- Ms. Subramani Santhakumari, Director and Managing Trustee for Women in Need Foundation
- Dr. Suyambulingam Revathy, Screenplay Writer, Lyricist and Freelance Writer
- Mr. Vishwanath Nurani Subramanian, Project Director of the Indian Council of Medical Research, Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights Project
During their visit to our offices, we discussed how vital social media can be in terms of spreading anti-abuse campaigns to both their local and global community. Like the U.S., young people in India use mobile devices more frequently to access the Internet. Poor, rural Indian communities have less access to the internet, they explain, but cell phone are used by about 75 percent of the population. Regardless of individual access to the Internet, social media can still serve as an advocacy tool to end gender-based violence.
For them, Facebook is their number one form on social media by far. While their young people are engaged on Twitter, unlike Americans, it is nowhere as popular as Facebook. Some professionals use Facebook as a tool to do all their business because of its universal use. For example, they use Facebook messaging as emailing, and send each other business information this way because they know people will see it.
However, there is a disconnect between service providers, advocates and other professionals in the field related to the purpose of social media. Some see social media as a way to promote their cause and end violence, while others see it as a tool for only certain socioeconomic brackets. It may be difficult for poor young women to get online and engage in social media, but there is a way to advocate on their behalf until they are engaged in the public sphere. For instance, advocating for poor communities offline to raise funds means service providers could potentially gain online access to advocate for themselves.
In addition, we addressed the need for advocates and professionals to engage with young people where they are most active -- online. Similar to the United States, Indian youth are using their mobile devices as their main technology format. There is a need and desire to use the same technology to reach India’s young population, and social media and public campaigns done by advocates have the power and potential to trickle down to smaller communities through word-of-mouth and online reach.
Every advocate was incredibly enthusiastic and clearly dedicated to their communities and causes. We were beyond thrilled they decided to include Break the Cycle to be a part of their conversation. We will continue to be in touch with these amazing advocates and hope to hear more about their experiences in India, and what they are doing to serve youth in their communities!