EEMA's We Care Promotes Constructive Support Over a #MeToo Movement: Poonam Lal, EEMA
by Shantanu Jain Industry Watch | October 15, 2018 | News
Speaking to a leading media channel last month, Bollywood actress Tanushree Datta revisited her jolting experience of the sexual harassment she faced from veteran Indian actor Nana Patekar. When the actress opened about this incident 10 years ago, she was titled a ‘Desperate woman trying too hard to gain publicity’.
However, this time around not only did people take note of her story, but thanks to social media women across the world screamed their solidarity with #MeToo.
As women across the country continue to share their chilling experiences of sexual and mental harassment, it makes one wonder if the Indian events fraternity much like other industries needs a #MeToo movement of its own. In an exclusive interview with EVENTFAQS, Poonam Lal, Chair Gender Equality, EEMA talks about how EEMA’s initiative We Care promotes constructive support and a genuine 'reach out' for women in the Indian events business.
The current wave of the #Metoo movement has truly opened a can of worms as real faces of influential people from all walks of life are now being revealed. Do you think that the Indian events business too needs this movement?
If the current #MeToo movement has highlighted anything it's the fact that despite its far-reaching effects the alleged culprits have continued to remain carefree and no action was taken. The fact of the matter is that in every industry women face harassment in one form or the other. The earlier leadership of former EEMA President Sabbas Joseph saw this and we decided to be the first movers by launching We Care, that gives women the courage to reach out in case they face harassment at work.
I don’t think a #MeToo movement by itself will serve the purpose. What we need is courageous girls coming forward and reporting the harassment they face. And more importantly, we need strong support systems for women who wish to come forward and talk about the harassment they may have faced; we need colleagues, especially women, believing them and standing by them.
You have been the custodian of the EEMA We Care initiative which was launched almost 2.5 years back. What has been the response to the initiative?
Like everything that is revolutionary and out of our comfort zones, we too have faced cynicism, and have been ridiculed. But we have gradually seen acceptance, slow as it might be in coming. People are talking to us, reaching out to us, asking us about how the law safeguards them, both as employers and employees, and women artists who work in the industry.
This acceptance may also be because we have efficiently, quickly and quietly handled the complaints that have come to us, as per the Vishakha Committee guidelines, and to the satisfaction of the complainant- all fairly and in an unbiased manner. And yes, cases have been brought to our notice officially. And, we have ensured each of them is addressed and resolved.
Please share some of the most important guidelines of the EEMA We Care initiative and how can someone facing harassment report the same?
The EEMA We Care initiative makes it mandatory for those who sign up for it to create a safe and conducive work environment for girls and women who work in agencies.
We began with simple things like SAFE- Security Arrangements for Female Employees that included late night drop facilities with a trusted colleague; SHH – Sexual Harassment Helpline, where girls could call to discuss the process or the options available to them to file a harassment complaint; MOM – Mandatory Off for Mothers with young children which offers them a work from home facility once or twice a month.
We gradually educated agencies to lay down internal policies for dealing with harassment complaints as per the Vishakha Committee Guidelines that also makes it mandatory to have an ICC or an Internal Complaints Committee in place to handle any complaints in the organization. In the case of an ICC not being in place in the agency, then EEMA Zonal Committees with members and external neutral experts on the panel, have been set up for all the zones, to help the complainants. Complainants need to approach the committee to file a complaint in writing. And the ICC is bound to act on the complaint and resolve it within 90 days from the date of the complaint.
The on-going #Metoo movement has also shown how women couldn't share their ordeals because they were too scared of losing their jobs, being shamed in public etc. How does the EEMA We Care Initiative help in this regard?
Well, we have a We Care Helpline in place for support, where people can reach out and talk to us. Once the call comes to us, we direct it to professional counsellors who are trained to help in any way possible, which also includes emotional counseling, and legal advice should it be required. We take great care to maintain complainant confidentiality and anonymity.
If you were to use this platform to give out a message to women in the experiential business in light of the on-going situation in the country, what would you say?
Sexual harassment is an abhorrent act that should be fought at every opportunity. Women facing harassment must come forward and be vocal about it. Women sometimes refrain from speaking up because they fear social shaming, as they are conditioned to believe that they may have encouraged the advances. They must understand that if they do not raise their voices against it, all they are doing is encouraging the perpetrators to become repeat offenders. Therefore, to ensure other girls and women are not subjected to harassment, they must report it.
We Care Helpline: +918448445168
Timings:10am - 5pm (Monday to Friday)
In an exclusive conversation with EVENTFAQS, Poonam Lal, Chair Gender Equality, EEMA shares her opinion if the event industry too needs a #MeToo Movement.