Breakthrough at Mount Holyoke College annual commencement
This past weekend, Mallika attended Mount Holyoke College’s 176th annual commencement where Kavita N. Ramdas addressed 600 bright young graduates. In her beautiful commencement speech, Kavita highlighted why we need the work of compassionate and passionate uncommon women to lead a world free of violence.
Here’s an excerpt from her inspiring address:
“As we walked in memory of a 23-year-old who died with an iron rod rammed hard inside her body, I turned in quiet despair to the young man walking beside me and asked, “Tell me, why are you here? Why are all these men here? You are the ones who do this to women and to other men everywhere. Why the bloodthirsty calls for the death penalty? Why, why, why?”
He turned to me, his face somber and serious. “Ma’am, I know you may not believe me, but I was totally shaken by this experience. Nirbhaya was not alone in being abused—her male friend was beaten brutally, stripped, and thrown out of the bus along with her. He was a victim, too, and he survived to tell us what happened. For years men have thought that rape is a “woman’s issue” and that it has nothing to do with us. This incident has made us wake up and pay attention, and we are asking what is our role as men in addressing this ugly side of ourselves and of the society we dominate.” I looked around me—there were so many young men walking with their sisters, with their girlfriends, with their moms. It was different than in ’83. “We need the help of women, ma’am,” he went on. “This is a confusing time for us, and we need to think what does it mean to be a man and what is it we expect of ourselves. Maybe if we work on this together, we can make it right.
His words echoed in my ears a few months later, when I celebrated International Women’s Day with MHC grad and good friend, Mallika Dutt, as Breakthrough launched the One Million Men—One Million Promises: Bell Bajao campaign in New York. There, Captain Jean Luc Picard, aka Patrick Stewart [described being] a survivor and silent witness to domestic violence. On the verge of tears, he said, “No child should have to grow up as I did—knowing the exact moment at which to fling themselves across the room to come between their father’s fist and their mother’s body.” Who helped Patrick Stewart find the courage to come out in front of a global audience on the issue of domestic violence? One of our own—a 1983 MOHO! Yes, I will assert—it matters. An MHC education—a women’s college education—a liberal arts education matters. It may matter more today than it ever has in the history of our world.”