Remember ME - You Me and Dementia

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Young Social Entrepreneur Ms. Ramaa Subramaniam Awarded REX Karmaveer Global Fellowship 2016

Ms. Ramaa Subramaniam received REX Karmaveer Global Fellowship (RKGF 2015 -16) honour and the Karmaveer Chakra instituted with the UN. 

RKGF and Karmaveer Chakra are for people working on social causes and also for people from all walks of life, who are inspiring positive change and helping people in our society to have a positive mindset and thus impacting collective change. Thus, RKGF goes beyond doing something for social causes or charity and is given to people from across sectors who are making a positive contribution for impacting a positive mindset to change for the better.

Ramaa was instrumental in many offline and online  initiatives for Elders thru Social awareness, Sensitising and conducting events etc. She also co-founded an exclusive search portal for senior citizen which has contact details of all day to day needs She founded a social enterprise 'PrideAge' for conduct events and provide need based services for all ages. 

Rex - Ideas For Action Conclive. The award is instituted by iCONGO in association with the United Nations. It recognises change makers, people who put the mission before the commission.

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Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.

Mumbai base Social Activist Sailesh Mishra Conferred 'KARMAVEER JYOTI’ 2016 National Karmaveer Puraskaar

We are extremely delighted to share that Shri Sailesh Mishra Founder of Silver Innings, a social enterprise working with Senior Citizens has been conferred the prestigious 'KARMAVEER JYOTI - the highest iCONGO Karmaveer Global Award for Social Justice and Citizen Action' at New Delhi on 26th Nov 2016.

Sailesh was felicitated the coveted ‘Karmaveer Jyoti’ Golden Puraskar’ award on the 26th of November at Delhi Public School, Gurgaon, New Delhi at the exclusive awards function which is a part of “iCONGO’s RIGHT every WRONG conclave” a national forum for social justice and citizen action where various social justice issues are discussed by very eminent and concerned citizens.
Sailesh Mishra, Son of Million Parents is a Social Entrepreneur and Mentor, Founder of Silver Innings®  a community dedicated to Senior Citizens in India. Through his organisation Silver Innings (since April 2008) he is working towards creating Elder Friendly World where Ageing becomes a Positive and Rewarding Experience. He has left his well-paid corporate job to work for his passion to work with Senior Citizens, which he believes is the most neglected and ignored segment. His work in the field of Dementia is worth to be commended. Having delved deep into the lives of the aged and understanding their challenges,  their emotional needs, their wishes and their aspirations and hopes, he was felt compelled to start ‘A1 Snehanjali’ Mumbai city First 24 x 7 Assisted Living Elder Care Home and also started Innovative program promoting Talent and Companionship among Elders. He effectively uses his Social Media, PR, Networking & Advocacy skills to outreach people of all ages around globe for the cause, making Silver Innings group pioneer in Asia Pacific region for using ICT. His vision for an elder-friendly world has garnered support from individuals and organizations across society. A belief that these silver-haired, golden-hearted people deserve to enjoy their “second childhood” with dignity, respect and care has driven Sailesh Mishra and his team of committed souls to reach out to seniors in as many ways as possible.

His dream is of India being global leader in the Holistic sphere of the globe, a network beyond borders, between technology, innovations and a socio-psychological approach. His dream is of a society where all generations are empowered, they are independent to choose and decide their careers and future. He foresee a growth in start-ups and social entrepreneurs for today’s youth and tomorrow seniors.

This award is given to Individual of extraordinary work for the society, by iCONGO – Indian Confederation of NGOs. iCONGO team of Advisors, Mentors and all our VOLUNTEERS, we congratulate Sailesh Mishra on his selection for the Karmaveer Puraskaar- Global Awards for Social Justice and Citizen Action. He was also welcomed as Karmaveer Noble Laureate 2015-16. It was great privilege to have him as an integral part of the REX and Karmaveer community and the Joy of Giving and Right every Wrong Movement.

In the year 2008, Sailesh Mishra was Awarded the coveted ‘Karmaveer Puraskar’ for his commendable work in the field of social service, especially for Senior Citizens.

The ‘Karmaveer Puraskar’ is a national award for Social Justice & Citizen Action. The award is instituted by iCONGO – Indian Confederation of NGOs – the people sector association- in partnership with government, business, media, civil society and other sectors and leading global and national organisations which over the years include institutions like TISS, BCCI, NASSCOM FOUNDATION, PHDCCI, CMS, RAI, UNMC, UNODC, The art of living, UNDP, World Bank, UNFPA, GTZ, WOTR, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, NDTV, Business World, Outlook and various others.

KARMAVEER PURASKAAR was created in 2006 by the people sector through iCONGO to recognize only individual citizens from all sectors (media, corporate, government, civil society, performing arts, professionals who have been pivotal for “being and leading the change” beyond their personal daily lives and business as usual by being committed on individual levels to work for social justice issues with proactive citizen action. The awards are given to individuals from various sectors for their contribution to promote social justice through citizen action. The basic philosophy of the awards is based on Gandhiji’s “Be the change you want to see in the world” and given to citizens who go beyond being apathetic and believe in doing their bit for social justice and know that it is “better to light a candle than to curse the darkness”. Past awardees include living legends and some eminent citizens like Verghese Kurien, Anu Aga, James Michael Lyngdoh, Vikram Akula, M. S. Swaminathan, Alyque Padamsee.

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Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Implementing or Ignoring the Law on Sexual Harassment?

By Dr. (PhD) Anagha Sarpotdar ( has a doctorate in the social sciences and is based in Mumbai.

The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act was passed in 2013 but not many companies in Mumbai have taken its provisions seriously or formed the mandatory internal complaints committees. A survey of how complaints by women were treated by some companies and what the internal committee members had to say shows that employer response to their women personnel and staff victimises the victim.
In early October, the Mumbai High Court ruled that it is the duty of every company to ensure that proper safeguards are provided to protect women from sexual and other harassment at work. “It is about time that every organization makes a list of dos and don’ts for male employees vis-à-vis their conduct towards women colleagues,” said a bench, headed by Justice V M Kanade (Times of India 2016). The complainant had alleged that her superior had not only made sexual advances towards her but even threatened to scuttle her career growth, if she refused. The bench, however, held that the findings of the internal complaints committee (ICC) and disciplinary committee showed that they had examined all allegations and held the officer guilty of misconduct.

The bench said sexual misconduct cannot be viewed casually and must be dealt with firmly and there should be an inbuilt internal mechanism so that instances of harassment can be conveyed confidentially to a senior woman officer. “Internal committees should be constituted to ensure that such instances are nipped at the inception itself.” It also pointed out that while Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act was passed in 2013, most firms have not set up complaints panels and must do so expeditiously (Times of India 2016).

A gender diversity study (TeamLease 2016) has revealed that more than 72% women feel that gender discrimination exists at workplaces and that initiatives like anti-sexual harassment policies need to be boosted by employers. This was reflected in the data provided by the corporate affairs ministry, Government of India which showed that reported complaints of sexual harassment within the top 100 companies listed on the National Stock Exchange doubled in the financial year 2014–15 as compared to the previous one (Asian Age 2015). Paradoxically, employers were found to be unequipped to tackle the problem. The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI)–Ernst and Young study (2015) revealed that one in every three Indian companies that is 31% had not yet set up ICC and 40% had not oriented the members to legal provisions while 35% were unaware of the penal consequences of not complying with the law. Around 44% did not create awareness about the law among employees (Bhattacharyya 2015; Sharma 2015).

Researching the Issue

In this context, I argue that employer response to reported complaints of sexual harassment has been dubious and problematic before enforcement of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013. This is substantiated by findings of the research undertaken by me as fulfilment of the PhD programme at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai between 2012 and 2014. The need for such research arose from the poor implementation of the Vishakha guidelines (1997). One of the objectives of the research was to understand and analyse employer response to reported complaints of sexual harassment by women. It was done prior to the enforcement of the 2013 act and provided insights into status of compliance by organisations to the then existing legal framework.

Methodological Approach

Research questions required that a qualitative approach was followed. More specifically, phenomenology was chosen in order to get a both closer and deeper understanding of lived experiences of individuals who implemented the Vishakha guidelines and those who were affected by their implementation. This helped in bringing out new and context specific knowledge both from the compliance and process point of view.

Mumbai was chosen as the research setting taking into consideration that it is the economic capital of India and home to different kinds of organisations. There were numerous challenges in terms of locating participants for research and gaining their consent. Women’s organisations and/or groups, human and/or women’s rights lawyers, and the state commission for women became contact points to get in touch with women who reported sexual harassment and individuals who had experience in implementing the Vishakha guidelines. Lawyers, trade union members and representatives of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) functioning as external members with complaints committees were willing to be part of the research.

A few participants were selected using purposive sampling (Welman and Kruger 1999) and others were located using the snowballing technique (Babbie 1995; Crabtree and Miller 1992). The sample size was 27. Out of these, six persons were members of complaints committees including chairpersons, three were human resources professionals, six were from NGOs and women’s organisations, two were members of trade unions and three were lawyers. Seven women were complainants who had reported sexual harassment at their workplaces. Out of these seven, four were employed with government organisations while three were working in private sector companies.

The challenge in locating and accessing participants for research reflected lack of uniformity in participant profiles. The sample was not representative in terms of participant activities except that all participants were employed with the organised sector and were concerned with the implementation of the Vishakha guidelines. Data collection was done using single in-depth semi-structured conversational interviews.

Experiences of the participants were captured in three themes. One of the prominent themes that emerged was employer response to reported complaints. This particular theme is especially important because it provides a base to understand and analyse prevailing situation relating to compliance to the current law on sexual harassment. The theme was analysed from the point of view of employer compliance to the Vishakha guidelines.

Major Findings

Writings and studies in India during 1997–2013 reveal under-reporting of sexual harassment, and poor implementation of the Vishakha guidelines leading to ineffective resolution of reported complaints (Saheli 1998; Sakshi 2000; Sanhita 2001; SARDI 1999; Lawyers Collective and ILO 2002; Yugantar 2003; CII 2005; Chaudhuri 2006; CFTI 2010). Situation continues to be sluggish after the 2013 act was enacted Phadnis and John (2014), Singh (2015) and DNA (2015). This is substantiated by findings of the present research.

Overall, organisations flouted the Vishakha guidelines. However, persistent efforts by the women and pressure from external agencies compelled employers to implement the guidelines. Even though it was done half-heartedly complaints committees were constituted or activated after complainants insisted and/or when there was pressure from external agencies like the state commission for women and high court.

It was found that women did not complain immediately after the incidents of sexual harassment occurred. In fact, registering a complaint with the employer was considered as the last choice and was resorted to when they found the workplace atmosphere becoming intimidating and difficult to handle. Their well-being and health was affected. Many of them did not have information about the complaint mechanism within their organisations and sought the help of women’s organisations, the police or the state commission for women.

When the women reported sexual harassment to persons in positions of authority, they were laughed at or were not believed. The complaints were rendered insignificant and branded as psychological problems, administrative harassment arising from the complainant’s non-performance, workplace politics, ragging or rude behaviour. Since these complaints were not considered grave enough to warrant attention, they were invariably dismissed. It must be noted here that non-verbal forms of sexual harassment were not regarded as harassment and the woman was blamed for making an issue out of “nothing.”

Retaliation from the employer after complaint was distinctly seen in all cases and this was a trend that was seen much more in the private sector where the complainant women’s services were terminated or they were compelled to resign due to humiliating working conditions deliberately created by the employer. The nature of retaliation in the government organisations differed substantially from the private sector. For these women, sexual and administrative harassment escalated after they complained. In all cases, however, the women were subjected to senior management personnel actually devising ways of troubling them further.

The experiences of the women complainants discussed here were substantiated by members of NGOs functioning as external members on the complaints committees, and by lawyers and trade unionists. The NGO members said that employers largely denied the existence of sexual harassment in their organisations and most of them were convinced that the environment in their organisations was safe for the women employees. As a result, the implementation of the Vishakha guidelines was undertaken reluctantly and led to low awareness among the employees about the entire issue and existence of the complaint mechanism. Almost everyone I interviewed said that the sexual harassment policies were vaguely framed because these employers did not envisage the different situations emerging from such harassment.

The NGO members further shared that employer response to reported cases was subjective and varied according to their perception about the issue and interest in the reported complaint. The response was never sympathetic and was actually negative, casual and attempted avoidance. Sexual harassment was treated as “normal” behaviour and not dealt with seriously thus forcing the women to reach out to external agencies such as the police.

The lawyers I spoke to observed that multinational companies only pretended to adhere to strict global standards but sexual harassment at the workplace was not seen as a form of violence against women or violation of rights of women employees. The employers believed that the woman was making the complaint with an ulterior motive. As a consequence, the response was negative and any show of insistence from the woman resulted in her being accused of poor performance of her job or vindictive behaviour. While her work and leave records were examined with intent to find faults and serve her with memos and termination notices, the man she had complained against was let off without any action. In fact, the woman faced isolation within the workplace and in many cases the human resources personnel ensured that her complaint was ignore or treated lightly.

Employers need to make sure that ICCs under the Companies Act, 2013 are constituted as mandated. Similarly, an efficient anti-sexual harassment policy is required to be drafted so that it is compliant with the 2013 act and addresses even those areas which the law fails to. The definition of sexual harassment should be broadened to cover the overall work culture and the ICC should meet regularly to gain visibility and reach out to the women in the organisation even when there are no reported complaints of sexual harassment. Though the act does not mandate presence of an external member in the quorum, the compulsory presence of such a member should be ensured during the committee’s meetings and proceedings.

As stated by Hersch (2015) despite being illegal, costly, and an affront to dignity, sexual harassment is pervasive and challenging to eliminate. Sincerity of purpose, interpretation of the legislation by the employers in keeping with its spirit and contextualising it with the struggle from which it emerged will go a long way in bringing about the safety of women employees at workplaces.

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Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.