Burnett's social responsibility cell, Leo Hope, has launched a campaign against eve teasing and sexual harassment for an NGO called Akshara. Akshara aims to empower women and help them access their rights and develop their capacities.
The campaign is called Lehar and is currently running only in the Thane region (near Mumbai). The objective of the campaign is to make eve teasers realise that sexual harassment and eve teasing is dangerous to them, too, and to help them develop dialogue with the opposite sex.
Akshara recently conducted a research study in 46 colleges of Mumbai. Co-director Nandita Shah says, "The major finding of the research was that 61 per cent of the girls surveyed had experienced eve teasing in one form or the other in everyday life. This led to low self-esteem and lack of confidence in them. For the guys, it was just another fun activity."
Barrett points out the real reason for eve teasing and sexual harassment in society: Young men are not secure enough to go up to girls and initiate a conversation. The easier option is eve teasing. The first two phases of the campaign were directed at demonstrating the dangers of eve teasing and display of a special helpline number.
In the second phase, which ended on December 17, a special helpline telephone number was created with the help of the Mumbai Police. Outdoor posters and hoardings were put up, displaying messages such as 'Ek number jo band kare chhedkhani - you can help stop street sexual harassment' and 'Wanted - sadak chaap romeo. Anyone who harasses women can be jailed. Call 25443535.'
Leo Hope will now start the third phase of the campaign, which will aim at increasing interactivity between members of the two sexes to improve relations and decrease instances of eve teasing. This phase will invite students to join the Lehar campaign and take part in interactive seminars, workshops, discussions and debates so that boys and girls get a chance to air their views before each other. This phase will last till May 2008.
Akshara plans to spread the Lehar campaign across various colleges all over Mumbai by the middle of 2008.