Published: 22nd May 2018
Radio In A Purse: How the anonymous recording of student testimonials is bringing campus sexual abuse to the forefront
Since most students wish to remain faceless, this initiative helps them speak up about what their experiences without feeling the wrath of their college administration
For every woman who shared the metoo hashtag, there were a thousand other women who didn't have the courage to hit 'enter'. For every student who gathered the courage to accuse a professor in the Raya Sarkar sexual harassers' list, there were a thousand others who were forced to keep their mouths shut. Sexual abuse is always discussed in hushed tones while students are in groups, they rarely get the chance to speak out loud and when they do, their campuses become hostile to them. Which is why Bengaluru- based Maraa, an arts and media collective set up the Radio In A Purse initiative.
The initiative was set up in the aftermath of the #metoo campaign and Raya Sarkar's list of sexual harassers on campus, said Angarika Guha, coordinator at Maraa. The motive behind the initiative is to record students' testimonies anonymously - their experiences of any sort of abuse on campus."We have been working with students over the last few years and after these new campaigns started, we were wondering what we could do to further the movement. So we decided to document those voices on campus that don't get heard but in a way that they could remain anonymous," she said.
Radio In a Purse is inspired by the concept of 'Radio in My Backpack' said Angarika, "The concept of Radio In A Backpack basically is that a person carries all the necessary broadcast equipment in a backpack so they can do a live broadcast from anywhere. This is mostly in situations of natural disasters or war where you can't carry heavy equipment and have to make do with what you have," she explained.
Since Maraa already works with community radio, they decided to adopt the Radio In A Backpack concept and put together radio equipment in a "purse" that could be taken around to college campuses. Since it is completely anonymous, students find it easier to allow their testimonies to be recorded, "We're not always allowed on campuses, so sometimes we meet students outside, sometimes in parks or other public spaces where they discuss their horrifying experiences," she added.
Not just sexual harassment, students also tell stories about bullying, verbal harassment, violence on campus, eve-teasing and discrimination and stereotyping based on caste and discrimination. "Most colleges in Bengaluru are private, there aren't too many public universities and therefore not many have a sexual harassment cell. They have no way of speaking up but with this new concept they can," Guha explained. Radio In A Purse also records conversations between various students bringing to the forefront issues that have only been whispered about all these years. Since October of last year to March of this year, a number students' testimonies have been recorded and they've been uploaded on Maraa's website.
Not just sexual harassment, students also tell stories about bullying, verbal harassment, violence on campus, eve-teasing and discrimination and stereotyping based on caste and discrimination.
One of the recordings throws light on the fact that many sexual harassment complainants are asked for evidence, something that they simply cannot produce, "Are we supposed to ensure we always have some sort of camera on us so we can record what is happening?" asked a male student. Another bunch of female students discussed how their repeated demands for a female security guard has fallen on deaf ears, "When we walk into the college, the male guards look us up and down to "ensure" we are wearing appropriate clothes every morning. I cannot understand why in a college where half the population is women, we cannot have any female security guards." Several other recordings also have some hard-hitting narrations and throw light on incidents that have been pushed under the carpet.
Maraa already had been providing students with a platform to engage and write about the issues that they face, with Radio In A Purse, they're hoping to bring these stories to the mainstream media as well. Besides, Radio In A Purse, Maraa has worked on a lot of other social projects and even conducts workshops on issues like gender and sexuality.