Breaking Taboos: Gender Justice in a Modernizing India

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by Nilima Achwal on Sunday, March 10, 2013


Session type

Technical level


The goal of this session is to surface actionable ways to break taboos and make change in your own communities.


Right now in India - the feminist movement is becoming institutionalized. If ever there was a time to catalyze change at a massive scale, it is now.

We know the stats: • More than 50% of Indian women believe it is justified for a man to beat a woman. • 2/3 of married women are raped by their husbands. • 10 million female fetuses have been aborted in the last 20 years.

Now, let's think critically about how to tackle the root problems in our Indian context. There stand strong age-old traditions – the underlying, unchanging grid that has supported Indian society for centuries. Some traditions are getting challenged, while others are left to endure and continue to add value to Indian society.

How do we know which traditions to challenge and which to leave well enough alone? Does this violence have anything has to be with class warfare or is it intrinsic to every section of society? How do we - the youth - finish off sexism in our generation?

Punishment is a crude and only semi-effective method, which can never create long-lasting social change, and vengeance is an undesirable precedent to set. Instead, let's think critically about the system that breeds violence against women, methodically root it out, and obliterate it. We can take the lens of: • Cultural traditions (dowry, different modes of approaching arranged marriage, sexual taboos, Sita as the idealized Indian woman) • Globalization (dating, Western clothing and attitudes, good girl/bad girl dichotomy) • Policy and institutional attitudes • Education (sex education, human rights education) • Media and Bollywood (flat female characters, white skin as the premium)

Come attend - let's create a powerful new vision together.


  • Men and women!
  • An open, positive frame of mind
  • Constructive contributions
  • Empathy for the current state of affairs regarding women in India (and across the world)

Speaker bio

Nilima Achwal currently leads the SEED program at Villgro Innovations Foundation, an India-based social enterprise incubator that provides seed funding and mentoring to social enterprises that have the potential to scale up and transform rural India.

She is also a Staff Writer and former Editor of NextBillion, a prominent online consortium of experts in social entrepreneurship, business and nonprofit leaders, policy makers, and academics, who explore the connection between development and enterprise.

Being an Indian-American, she has a deep love and empathy for both countries, and has been able to perceive how sexism operates in both nations. She's excited to kick off a stimulating dialogue at the Goa Project.