Washington: Three brothers from India have received the prestigious Vital Voices Global Leadership Award from Vice President Joe Biden for their humanitarian working to end violence against women.
The three, Ravi, Rishi and Nishi Kant, who started the nongovernmental organization Shakti Vahini to fight injustice against women in 2001, received a “Solidarity Award” for their work at the annual Kennedy Centre event Tuesday.
“Getting women’s groups to accept that men are leading our organization was a challenge,” Ravi Kant, 45, a Supreme Court advocate in India and president of Shakti Vahini, told the Washington Post. “But we continued our work, and the support from women’s activists came.”
Vital Voices, which was started by former first lady and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 1997, upholds Shakti Vahini as a glowing example of how a group of men can and should work on women’s issues.
Leading a staff of 45, Kants believe they are witnessing a sea change, not only for victims of violent rapes, but also for victims of human trafficking since the gang-rape of a 23-year-old woman from Delhi on a bus last December galvanised India and led to the passage of a tough law on sexual harassment.
“When we saw the mass uprising, we said ‘This is the moment we’ve been waiting for,'” Ravi was quoted as saying. “It’s been a turning point, not only for us, but for women’s groups around the country.”
“People thought: This could be my sister. This could be my daughter,” Nishi told the Post.
Vital Voices is hoping that the brothers’ presence at the awards will encourage female advocates to embrace their male allies – and encourage American men to take the initiative, the Post said.
“Men should take up this issue. It’s half of our population, and women are the priority,” Ravi was quoted as saying. “Women build families. They build children and generations.”
Vital Voices is also holding Shakti Vahini up as a model NGO, one that addresses legal, advocacy and rescue missions simultaneously.
Over the past decade, Shakti Vahini has rescued more than 2,000 people, 70 percent of whom were children. It has responded to more than 600 victims of honour killings, the Post said.
(Arun Kumar can be contacted at [email protected])