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Behind The Veil

Focusing primarily on India, the treatment of women lies not on the surface, but deeply rooted in the culture of the country. Not only do women have to face the burden of being the non-preferred gender, but they are not empowered by society to get an education or job. Many anecdotes touch upon the idea that women should be invisible, in dress and demeanor to not attract unwanted attention. This idea, referred to as purdah, is pervasive throughout India. The word means “curtain” and defines a state where women are concealed from the view of men. (Definition courtesy of "A Brutal Gang Rape, and India's 'Purdah' Problem" - How can we change these cultural norms?

Photo of Kimberley Thomas
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The "Behind the Veil" movement is not exclusive to women. Both women and men alike can participate: women partaking in the physical removing of the veil and men, simply supporting the cause. This day of solidarity would ideally lead to increased conversation, and ultimately, a change of attitude towards women. The beauty of something like this is that the event could be entirely socially driven - some may have access to social media to track the event or it can simply be shared by word of mouth. The virality will spread the word, help gain global awarness/support, and keep the message alive. Additionally, this movement wouldn't incur any costs - another supporting factor for just how inclusive it is. Anyone can participate. 

Direct Inspiration: Social Media and Occupy Wall Street Movement and protests in Egypt

Questions for Community: 
  1. How do we get people engaged and put in charge of getting the word out?
  2. Who would lead the movement since it wouldn't be limited to one location?
  3. Where should the events take place?
  4. Should it be a nationally recognized day where communities are gathered in public or a regular weekday/weekend?
These are my preliminary questions. There will be more to come.

Explain your idea in one sentence.

A social movement, a call for collective social responsibility from women (and men alike) where women will "protest the purdah" - literally and figuratively - by standing united publicly (whether required or not based on region), wearing a veil and removing it. The veil is a physical symbol of the curtain that women are encouraged to put up in the presence of men.

What is the need you are trying to solve?

I'm trying to solve inequality between women and men, as well as the misogynistic attitude towards women in India. Women are not taken seriously in the country, and often left feeling ashamed, Too often, women are blamed for their experience of harassment and assault. This movement will bring awareness and challenge cultural norms in a peaceful, yet noticeable way. It will strive towards eliminating the need for women to hide themselves, to appear "invisible" to men.

Who will benefit from this idea and how would you monitor its success?

Ultimately, the entire culture would benefit from the change in cultural perceptions. But particularly women.. the movement would be a small step towards equality between the genders.

Who would be best equipped to implement this idea in the real world? You? Your organisation? Another organisation or entity?

A NGO or another organization (to be determined at this time) would be best equipped to seed the idea, and ignite the movement. Perhaps a group similar to the organizers of "Girlcott" in Guragon. Article for reference:

Where should this idea be implemented?

Perhaps the idea should be implemented in cities for the exposure and gain traction and permeate to surrounding areas. The great thing is that movements are not limited to geographic locations.

How might you prototype this idea and test some of the assumptions behind it?

No prototype is necessary. We only need dedicated, strong, active participants to make this idea a success. My inspiration came from the "Torches of Freedom" PR-driven event in the US in the 1920s. Prior to this, it was illegal for women to smoke cigarettes in public. All it took was this one act of defiance to change societal behavior for women. My hope is that "Behind the Veil" will spark conversation and eventually lead to change.

1 comment

Join the conversation:

Photo of Kavita Gonsalves

Hi Kimberly, I really like your idea and feel that there are certain OpenIDEO ideas that you should definitely collaborate with: