DAWN Worldwide hosts Diwali fund-raiser to heighten awareness of gender-based violence

Geeta Aiyer
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Belmont, MA – Direct Action for Women Now (DAWN) Worldwide, a Boston-based charity formed in 2013 to combat gender-based violence, is hosting its first Diwali fund-raiser on Saturday, November 4th at the Beech Street Center, Belmont, MA.

DAWN was formed by an inspired group of local volunteers led by Geeta Aiyer, President of Boston Common Asset Management, after the horrific rape of a young woman referred to as ‘Nirbhaya’ in Delhi, India. The charity takes a multi-faceted approach to addressing gender-based violence, including creating programs to provide holistic care to survivors, as well as to change societal attitudes by engaging both men and women.

“We want to see a world where gender-based violence does not happen – not in public where it may appear to be a model; not in private where it perpetuates discrimination against women; and finally, not in the hearts and minds of any member of civil society,” said Aiyer.

Saturday’s agenda features an introduction to DAWN’s programs, beginning with HEAL, which trains social workers around the world to provide holistic care to survivors. Dr. Sujata Warrier, the Director of Training and Technical Assistance at the Battered Women’s Justice Project, will discuss DAWN’s work and her extensive experience in this field, in both the U.S. and India.

Geeta Aiyer

The inspirational documentary ‘Raising Men’, which follows a group of teenage boys in India, as they undergo gender training and question some of the entrenched inequalities around them, will be aired. The film highlights the work of a DAWN partner, Men Against Violence and Abuse (MAVA), an NGO based in Mumbai, that has been mobilizing young men to promote gender equality in their communities for over twenty years.

The evening will also showcase live performances by local comedian Ben Zimmerman and danseuse Urmi Samadar and her troupe. Come for an evening’s worth of inspiration, great food, live dancing and Diwali fun!

Tickets may be purchased at: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/diwali-with-dawn-tickets-37148956529

DAWN operates on the principle that ending gender-based violence requires deep social change. It seeks to address both the Response function, whereby holistic care is provided to empower survivors; and Prevention, which seeks to influence the beliefs and attitudes that condone violence and inequality. It believes fundamentally that men and women must come together to disrupt these harmful social norms. DAWN seeks to provide global expertise that can be adapted by local leaders for use in their communities.

HEAL Program

DAWN created the Holistic Care, Empowerment, Assistance and Learning Program to train counselors and healers who work with survivors of gender-based violence. The program provides technical assistance, expertise and resources to counselors, social workers and healthcare professionals. HEAL emphasizes taking a victim-centered approach and providing trauma-informed care when working with survivors. It helps professionals create such responses within the systems in which they work.

The objective of the HEAL Program is to bring global expertise to local communities.  DAWN works with local community leaders to build a model of holistic care that can be adapted to their unique healthcare setting and cultural context. It does not simplistically transport approaches from one society to another, but rather, aims to provide forums for action-oriented discussion. Its workshops enable the sharing of holistic care and intervention techniques between counselors and healthcare professionals from different areas of expertise and communities.

DAWN started the HEAL Program in India in 2013. This has achieved important outcomes, including:

  • Bringing together disparate groups to network, share ideas, and collaborate.
  • Teaching participants about the myriad legal, political and social factors that led to the development of a national network of rape crisis centers in the U.S.
  • Providing a forum for various stakeholders to discuss and adapt models of care, including trauma-informed care, to the unique situations encountered in their communities.
  • Emphasizing a victim-centered approach for survivors.

DAWN partners with organizations that are pioneers in the Engaging Men’s movement. One of its key partners is Men Against Violence and Abuse (MAVA), a men’s organization founded in 1993, that believes men should be equal partners in the pursuit of women’s empowerment and in combating gender-based violence.

MAVA has spearheaded the Campus Gender-Sensitization and Leadership Program, a college-based youth development and community outreach project that has reached more than 20,000 college students in Maharashtra, India since 2006. The program’s success lies in providing positive male role models to young men and in providing safe spaces for facilitated conversations about masculinity, gender roles and norms, and the various forms of violence (such as recognizing domestic abuse as a form of gender violence). The goal is to reach 5,000 students across 10 colleges.

DAWN aims to prevent violence against women before it starts. A cornerstone of the team’s thinking is that certain public and private messages shape societal perceptions of gender, masculinity, relationships and sexual violence. The ultimate goal is to reconstruct public attitudes, by creating awareness of the roots of such violence and reinforcing positive responses that uplift the survivor experience.

To this end, DAWN helped fund the creation and distribution of a short documentary film called ‘Raising Men’ in India. This followed a group of teenage boys, who through gender training courses led by MAVA, began to question established roles for the men and women in their lives and to uncover everyday inequalities. DAWN is currently working to distribute the film as a teaching tool in schools, colleges and community groups.

Geeta Aiyer is the Board Chair and Co- Founder of DAWN Worldwide. she has had a long career in sustainable investing. She is President and Founder of Boston Common Asset Management. Geeta founded two previous companies, Walden Capital Management and East India Spice.


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