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Difficult Dialogues 2018: A Conference on Gender Equality

This February, the International Centre in Dona Paula plays host to an event called Difficult Dialogues 2018 a Conference on Gender Equality. Most recently all forms of social media were flooded with the #MeToo campaign. One where countless women across the world spoke out about how they were either a victim of, or knew of someone who had been, sexual harassment and assault.

Gender Equality is truly a difficult conversation to have in this day and age

It’s no secret that women have faced terrible atrocities and acts of violence for several decades. These have joined the gross inequality on the basis of gender discrimination in India. And even though gender norms seem to be forgoing transformations, gender equality seems like a far-off dream for now. This is what Difficult Dialogues 2018: A Conference on Gender Equality is targeting. The plan is to examine wide-ranging topics under the overarching theme of gender and come up with white papers directed at finding tangible solutions to this hard-pressing issue.

Gender Equality – For Everyone’s Benefit?

Difficult Dialogues was founded by philanthropist Surina Narula, a veteran NGO founder – responsible, amongst other achievements, for establishing the internationally lauded Consortium for Street Children – with the intent to bring together leaders from across the spectrum of international society to meet and find equitable solutions to South Asia’s most pressing priorities. She says, “My experience working with NGOs spanning 20 years has given me a deep understanding of the pressing need to work on policy change. ‘Difficult Dialogues’ is an endeavour to provide a common platform to bridge this gap between policymakers and civil society involved with implementation. Unless the last mile implementers are included in the conversation, policies will only reflect what mega rich businesses want and democracy will be diluted.”

Her perspective on this year’s gender-focused dialogues is to include men in the conversation. “Gender equality can be best achieved with all genders working towards the same outcome. The only way that we can form a just society is if the journey is an inclusive constructive process, in which everyone feels empowered to participate. It should not be a feminist argument in isolation.” 

gender equality
Surina Narula Image credit – Difficult Dialogues

This year, the conference is being held in partnership with UCL (University College London), Goa University (GU) and the International Centre Goa (ICG). The number of speakers at the conference looks to be impressive. and the entire affair seems like it’s going to be a highly insightful one. Each speaker has a lot to say and one can expect to see government officials discuss new policy directions with a number of leading minds from the professional world, academia, development experts, the media and a host of celebrities with vivid experiences of the issues at hand. Speakers have been curated and panels organized by all three knowledge partners, UCL, GU and ICG. Through their academic leads, they have contributed towards the programming of Difficult Dialogues 2018 and will help Difficult Dialogues in producing policy papers aimed at influencing public policies and decision making.

Some of the topics at Difficult Dialogue 2018: A Conference on Gender Equality

Filmmaker Nandita Das is going to discuss the ‘MeToo’ hashtag message to raise awareness about sexual assault and harassment which lead to an overwhelming response on social media. “The #metoo movement has created more than catharsis for women. (It is) a space for truth to come out. While the initial reaction was ‘finally the time has come,’ it has gone on to become more nuanced, adding many other perspectives to the conversation. At the unique conference, Difficult Dialogues, I look forward to digging deeper into the issues of violence and silence. Together we hope to raise many unanswered questions… why it took so long, from here to where and why this deafening silence in India?”

gender equality
Nandita Das Image credit – Difficult Dialogues

Actor Gabriella Wright weighs in about her insight into gender roles in Hollywood, “The whole crisis reflects on what any woman in Hollywood has to deal with on a daily basis. The levels of gender-related consequences differ. Sadly enough all of the women I have met in the industry have had to deal with all levels of harassment, whether its emotional, mental, and physical pressure and harassment.”

There will be over a dozen thought-provoking panels on topics related to gender including the #MeToo movement, Women in Politics, Masculinity and Trafficking. There will also be a talk by former union cabinet minister Arif M. Khan who is actively involved in reforming religious ideas according to the present world. Other leading lawyers and politicians participating include the likes of Salman Khurshid and Pavan K Varma. Sara Hossain, an advocate for the Supreme Court of Bangladesh, will also be in attendance.

The conference is happening between the 9th and 11th (both days included) of February at the International Centre in Dona Paula. Anyone with an interest in leading thinker’s insights into the gender debate will find the upcoming Difficult Dialogues forum to be a vibrant, stimulating festival of ideas that truly has the power to change the future direction of Indian society.

For more information, you can visit the Difficult Dialogues official website and even register there.

Information credit – BlurbGoa/ Difficult Dialogues

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