EEMA We Care is There for Emotional Support to Anyone in the Industry Who Needs it, Says Poonam Lal

Industry Watch | October 13, 2020 | Interview

Poonam Lal Marketing Solutions EEMA

Poonam Lal, MD, Marketing Solutions and Chair-CSR, We Care Initiatives for EEMA, talks to EVENTFAQs Media about We Care, which has expanded its scope to include men in its purview, to offer support in the areas of mental and physical health, besides introducing a support helpline for beleaguered industry members in the time of the pandemic.

Here, Lal discusses the challenges before We Care, why ensuring gender parity for women in the industry still looks very far and the agenda of creating a truly equal space for everyone in the events and entertainment industry.

What are some of the major issues that women in the industry have faced in the last few months during lockdown? How has We Care helped in coping with them?

The biggest stress of the last months have been lay-offs, salary cuts and forced sabbaticals. But with organizations introducing work from home, COVID-19 has also highlighted the skewed and disproportionate workload burden on women who typically do three times as much unpaid care work. Added to their office work, now with schools shut down, the burden of looking after household chores, children and elderly has increased, and the resulting stress has begun to take a toll on the health and well-being of women.

Also observed is an increase in domestic violence as abusers and victims are locked together at home under increased tension. Domestic violence spikes when households are placed under increased pressure arising from security, health, money worries and cramped living quarters.

We Care has been there as a silent friend, a reach-out point for many. We have offered them support by listening to their woes, their angst, their fears, their confusions. Wherever needed, we have connected them with professional counsellors for help and guidance.

You have years of experience in the events marketing industry. Do you think the scenario has changed or improved for women in any way? Would you call it an equal space today?

If you mean, have we changed from maybe a decade ago, when the only role women had in events was sitting on top of a car at the annual auto show like an accessory to be shown off - then yes!

We have transitioned from when women were quietly running events behind the scenes to now, when they are fronting it. Today, we see women planning, producing, leading, running events and leading teams.

But at the same time, we are at an inflection point. And while leaders admit that a culture of equality is important, the events industry, which is a fairly new industry, has its own challenges and stereotypes for women, often observed in behavioural approaches.

And really, now conversations should no longer be just about the equality between men and women, it needs to transcend further into an equal space for everyone regardless of how they choose to identify themselves. So many among us are still not recognized by our society and are merely transfixed into the ‘others’ category. Women have fought harder alone, but now we’re a larger, stronger and a more diverse group that will fight with twice the valour and triumph.

Is it truly an equal space? No. We are constantly reminded of the patriarchal nature of this industry because it is the men who end up taking credit for allowing women to be equal stake-holders. Our efforts, our fights and our hard work, all become void because at the end, we are made to believe that it is their approval that made it happen.

Our society lacks the general understanding of gender. To make things less complicated, we created binary genders and placed people on each extreme of the spectrum. That allowed us to prefix one as superior. We are fighting, and we have come a long way, but there are so many that lie in between the spectrum that are still fighting for their voices to be heard. It’s very simple, had there been no labels, there wouldn’t have existed a superior gender.

Along with promoting constructive support for women in the events business, We Care is now providing a support helpline too. Tell us in what ways We Care helps a distressed person. 

Over the time it has existed, the helpline, to make itself effective and relevant, has strengthened its panel of counsellors to include sexual harassment compliance experts to professionals from legal, financial and wellness fields.

During the lockdown months, the helpline started receiving distress calls from people, many of them men, who suddenly found themselves jobless or facing unpaid leave and salary cuts. We realized the urgent need for emotional counselling and support, and increased the spectrum of the helpline to include this, promoting it widely on social media to ensure people had someone to reach out to in these trying times. The attempt has been to offer confidential emotional support to those who need it as they struggle through these tough times.

Please share some of the most important guidelines of the EEMA We Care initiative and how can someone facing harassment report it to them?

From putting together an initiative like this, to implementing the POSH mandates and creating the Internal and Regional Complaints Committee for women facing harassment at work, to now making the initiative inclusive, by offering emotional support to anyone in the industry who needs it in pandemic times, EEMA We Care has had the interest and well-being of the industry at its core. As we evolve, we have picked up meaningful and impactful agendas that are relevant and needed in the industry.

We Care has a dedicated helpline number to report harassment. People could also write in to us to register a complaint. For any action to be taken, we need a formal written complaint, which is checked thoroughly for authenticity. If required, the Internal Complaints Committee is put in place as per the POSH mandate to initiate a full-fledged inquiry. All this is handled with complete confidentiality to protect the complainant and the others involved.

If you were to use this platform to give out a message to women in the experiential business in light of the current situation in the country, what would you say?

COVID-19 has upended life as we knew it, and we are not sure when things will get better. The world acknowledges our strength and resilience in the face of adversity. It is time to find that within us now, when we need it most. Hang in there. Be resilient. Believe. Hope. Invest in your physical and emotional health and wellness. If you are in a better place than others, extend support to those less fortunate by being there for them. Remember, extraordinary times require extraordinary solidarity. And we will get through this together.

WE CARE SUPPORT LINE – + 91-844 844 5168

Here, Lal discusses the challenges before We Care, why ensuring gender parity for women in the industry still looks very far and the agenda of creating a truly equal space for everyone in the industry

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