Women in Bangladesh have a stirring story of resilience and survival. The abject apathy concerning our bodies and mental health rendered overlooked has manipulated our moral imperative — to stay quiet because feminine stories are not important enough. But does it have to be like that? Since the lockdown began, with restrictive measures still in place, it is more important now than ever to have a support system that you can talk to and share your story with. To give a voice to the unheard, স্বয়ং – Swayong happened.
স্বয়ং – Swayong is an organisation devoted to raising awareness against gender based inequality, harassment, and sexism women face every day. The platform is working relentlessly in order to dismantle the social stigmas and injustice through storytelling, one at a time. Their aim is to create a safe, constructive, and all-inclusive unbiased platform for the entire horizon of women to come forward and share their stories with. The platform has created a gender sensitive and all-inclusive environment to share everyone’s hardest and worst life experiences.
The concept is to bring the sensitive, taboo, and “shameful” stories women face to light — says Swatil Binte Mahmud, the founder of Swayong. She and her sister — Kazi Mitul Mahmud, co-founder of Swayong — started the platform on 4 June. The platform is dedicated to construct connections and empathy through the art of story-telling. Each story allows the reader to enter the story and be a part of the event. It creates a sense of familiarity and trust.
Swayong introduced their first topic “শরীর যার, সিদ্ধান্ত তার | Your Body, Your Choice Series — Bra/Breasts” on 6 June. Since then, they have been launching and aiding campaigns on addressing issues like sexualisation and objectification of women in advertisements, promoting rape culture through misogynistic narratives, catering to the toxic masculinity. They addressed the objectification of women body parts in Carl’s Jr. and Nando’s as well.
Since the birth of Swayong, they have collaborated with multiple awareness organisations and safe space platforms. They collaborated with WeMen View on sexual harassment in public places, and Wander Woman to raise awareness and build readiness for women travelers through stories of horror, violence, and discomfort. Swayong has also launched a collaboration with Bangladesh Development Project. The aim is to disclose the inequity and discrimination that our garment workers are facing and the magnitude of it during the Covid-19 crisis.
For the August issue, they are co-hosting an event, “Silent the Silence”, with RYC Global along with TransEnd, The Dhaka Apologue, Foundation 21, and Ekhoni. “Silent the Silence” is an event providing an unbiased, neutral platform for the marginalised hijra/transgender community of Bangladesh to get exposure through story-telling. The platform is tapping into a larger spectrum of women every day, bringing to light stories of success, struggles, and achievements through storytelling.
As development professionals, Swatil and Mitul both knew they would have to face negative comments bringing these stories to light. However, the response against these comments were overwhelming and were soon discarded but they still started adding comments addressing laws against cyber-bullying and insults.
স্বয়ং – Swayong was also the runner up for the Digital Khichuri Challenge Covid-19 Edition in the Ideation level. They addressed the gender based issues and violence female frontline warriors like healthcare workers, hospital staffs, law enforcers, and journalists are facing during the Corona virus crises and presented the platform as a safe space to share their stories.
Like a band-aid solution to a much larger issue — inequity against women is overlooked while continuous instances of harassment and inequity in forms of devaluing feminine skills, worth, and objectification happen adding barriers in their way of life. This is where a platform like স্বয়ং – Swayong comes in, playing a substantial part in addressing the patriarchal barriers through firsthand accounts and real life stories; addressing the patriarchal abuse of power and other forms of oppression, injustice, and tyranny; one story at a time.
The August issue of TDA, Youth in Philanthropy, intends to honour those youth-led organisations which are working selflessly to bring about a change in the society.
Approached by Labiba Anjumi Kabir