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A guide to curb domestic violence

By Mandira Nayar

NEW DELHI, OCT. 27. It was an evening to talk about real life that does not get a chance to be part of the curriculum: domestic violence. An uncomfortable subject that is at best glossed over in classrooms, this attitude is about to change if "Breakthrough", a human rights organisation, has its way. Having designed an educator's guide to prevent domestic violence which it released in the Capital on Tuesday, Breakthrough is hoping to move beyond fighting legal battles to a higher level of changing mindsets.

"People keep talking about empowering girls, but no one ever really feels the need to talk to the boys. It was a very difficult task for our teachers also to talk about domestic violence. Some were even crying. But the educator's guide is a really powerful tool to tackle this problem. I hope that it will lead to a day when there is no need to empower girls to deal with the problem," stated the former Principal of Vasant Valley School, Arun Kapoor, where the guide was "tested" last summer.

While India has one of the highest rates of domestic violence in the world, it is an issue that is never addressed. However, Breakthrough wants to create some space for domestic violence in terms of discussion by involving teachers. Targeting community leaders, teachers, trainers, the guide uses the "power" of popular culture to make its point -- which is probably its biggest strength, feel experts.

"One of the hardest tasks is to get young people to think about things that have nothing to do with them getting a good job or materially useful. It has to be something that they relate to and that is cool. Breakthrough's guide manages to get them to relate to it and brings the issue alive," remarked educationist Shalini Advani.

Combining classroom exercises and workshop plans with music videos and Bollywood movie clips, the guide is the first comprehensive manual in India that spells out ways to prevent this violence. Written by Vidya Shah with Devika Sahdev, the resource guide draws from the experiences of work with educators, students, battered women, journalists and leaders from the women's movement and hopes to make the difference.

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