UTS students tie White Rakhi to help curb violence against women

WR - manmeet singh rakhi ms jenny aitchinson






Manmeet Singh gets a rakhi tied by Ms. Jenny Aitchinson


On Thursday, 25th of August 2016 Om Shanti UTS (Indian Cultural Society) in collaboration with White Ribbon Australia successfully launched Project: White Rakhi. The event based on the custom of Raksha Bandhan focused on promoting an end to domestic violence, gender equality, healthy relationship and refining male stereotypes towards women. The event saw dozens of students take part in the tradition of tying a Rakhi (thread), the exchange of sweet and reaffirmation of vows between brother and sister.

WR - Ms Suri tying Rakhi on Mr Kailyanda

Ms Suri ties rakhi on Mr. Kailyanda

In addition all the men as brothers received ”˜White Rakhis’, tied as White Ribbon wrist bands on their wrists by fellow female students with messages such as ”˜not violent, not silent,” making women safety a man’s issue’ and ”˜I will stand up, speak out and act to prevent men’s violence against women’ as they took the White Ribbon pledge and oath.

A number of notable individuals spoke at the event including White Ribbon Ambassador and Organiser, Mr Akshay Raj, The Shadow Minister for the Prevention of Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault and Small Business, Ms Jenny Aitchison, Member for Maitland, The (NUS &UTS) International Students Officer, Mr Manmeet Singh as well as Ms Joanna Leonard from the UTS Equity and Diversity Unit.


WR - rakhi workshop

A presentation was also done by Ms Vivian Tran, Ms Sanjana Suri and Mr Moiz Rana, students from the innovation hub UTS: Hatchery talking about their activism on campus and their most recent project. “It’s about changing the conversation that we have in the Indian (South Asian) culture about men and women issues”. said Akshay Raj, and stressed, “We need to push messages of mutual respect and gender equality.”

WR - students enjoying rakhi

“As children we are often taught to treat each other with the utmost respect, with elderly people addressing them as Nana ji and Nani ji  or”˜Aunty ji and Uncle ji’ with utmost respect and men calling each other ”˜Bhai, Veere, and Ana’ however there’s a disjuncture when it comes to relations between males and females of the same age. This problem goes to the core of shaping respectful relationships. It’s about showing respect for women, which can be a man’s issue as well.”

WR - Akshay raj with ms leonard 1

Akshay Raj with Ms Joanna Leonard

Mr Singh and Ms Patel of Om Shanti embraced the event by saying, “Often when we come to Australia to study, we leave behind our families, our brothers and sisters. It shouldn’t mean that we leave our tradition’s and culture. This Australian concept of multiculturalism is amazing and we feel that events like these are welcoming for international students,”

“Students on campus away from their families often embrace each other as brothers and sisters. White Rakhi affirms the bonds that they share and develops respect between students.”

Shadow Minister Aitchison said, “In NSW Parliament there is a great amount of understanding and bipartisanship between all parties as to the seriousness of addressing Domestic Violence in our society. Every week one woman falls victim to a Domestic Violence related homicide, this needs to stop and more needs to be done”.

WR - Tikha between Mr Gundaras and Ms Sharma from Om Shanti

Ms Sharma doing a tilak on Mr Gundaras

A final blessing was read out on behalf of Pandit Jayneil Shandil whose message spoke in depth about the significance of Rakhi for Hindu and Vedic traditions. Project White Rakhi has only just started and organisers hope that the tradition will continue for years to come.

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