I am Ram Krishna Panthi from Kapilvastu. I perform various religious rituals in my community. A few months ago I got the opportunity to be involved (in the Change Starts at Home project) as one of the religious leaders working in the community towards the prevention of violence against women. I attended a three day workshop with other religious and community leaders from 3 districts (Kapilvastu, Nawalparasi and Chitwan) …. We were given a platform to come together and discuss different norms and values in our society that perpetuate violence against women. We also had the space to reflect upon our own position and capacity to respond to VAWG and promote a harmonious relationship between husbands and wives.
There has been a misconception that women are experiencing violence due to religion . This is not true. No religion promotes violence of any form towards anyone and definitely does not say that women should be suppressed or humiliated. There is no religious doctrine stating this.
The Change Starts at Home project involved religious leaders in their activities so that we can go back to our community and clear the misconception that has been prevailing in society. The norms and values which are being practiced these days are not the outcome of any religion. It is the result of man-made misinterpretations, which have been ongoing for hundreds of years. The project also wanted to emphasize the importance of religious leaders to promote a community which is violence free. If we look into our religious scripts, then it tells us to respect all forms of life and tender to all – especially to the weaker ones. We worship many goddesses …our religion actually tells us to worship and respect women.
Since the workshop, I have been back to my village doing what I did before (religious ceremonies and rituals). However, on top of this, I have been an advocate for the prevention of violence against girls and women. Whenever I am at a gathering where I am invited to perform various rituals, I sit down afterwards with the group and preach about how our religion is against violence and how all life forms must be respected and appreciated. During these gatherings, I also promote a harmonious home as well as harmonious community.
Apart from these regular gatherings, there were two big festivals in our village. In those festivals more than 300 people came together to celebrate the festival and enjoy the cultural programs. In those cultural programs I spoke to the mass about violence against women…My speech was well-received by the crowd. Many came and told me afterwards that the idea of religious leaders discouraging violence against women was not something they had heard of before. The positive response from the audience has given me the motivation to continue doing this work. I have decided that I would like to continue addressing the masses about prevention of violence against women, even after the project finishes.