'Breakthrough Generation' needed to end culture of violence against women

Thu Apr 14, 2016 9:41am EDT
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By Astrid Zweynert

OXFORD, England (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Mallika Dutt and Sonali Khan have an ambitious goal: to mobilize an entire generation to put an end to violence against women - and men are at the heart of their campaign.

Their organization Breakthrough works in the United States and India, deploying a mix of social media, pop culture and multimedia campaigns to challenge the deeply held cultural norms they see as the root of the problem.

The scale of the issue they are trying to address is huge: one in three women will experience sexual or physical violence, and in some countries the figure is as high as 70 percent, according to the United Nations.

"We're using culture to change culture - and give people a concrete way to prevent domestic violence and discrimination against women," Breakthrough founder and chief executive Dutt said in an interview with the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Dutt and Khan were given the $1.25 million Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship on Thursday, the most valuable prize of its kind.

Laws, policies and education are not enough to bring about change in the face of entrenched cultural norms, said Dutt, adding that people are more likely to respond to arts and story-telling than to lectures about human rights.

Breakthrough has attracted some high-profile male supporters, including "Star Trek" actor Patrick Stewart, who shared his story of witnessing, as a small boy, his father beating up his mother, and the impact it had on his life.

His story created a social media storm and encouraged other men to share their stories.   Continued...