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Gurgaon Girlcott: Can women resist the temptation of shopping?
What started as a Facebook group has grown into a full-fledged movement - the 'Gurgaon Girlcott' is..

WOMEN IN Gurgaon are skipping shopping this weekend starting April 13, Friday evening only, in a unique ‘Gurgaon Girlcott’ protest to make the administration and mall owners aware of their responsibilities of making the city safer for women.

Around 200 members have registered for the ‘Girlcott’ that started with the Facebook recruitment by Richa Dubey, a communication consultant and a Gurgaon sector-50 resident, who is the brain behind the idea. Through social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook, members are urging women to forego shopping on the weekend to express their unhappiness over the gender-based crimes in the Millennium City, where more than 35,000 women are employed in various BPOs and MNCs.

Moved by the gang rape of a 23-year-old woman outside Sahara Mall in March, the group came into being after Ms Dubey along with a few like-minded professionals started rallying for the cause of ‘safer Gurgaon’. The group’s activities got a heavy rush of adrenaline when the Haryana administration stated that women shouldn’t work after 8 pm though the statement was retracted later after facing resentment from all quarters.

According to the official ‘Gurgaon Girlcott’ Facebook page, ‘a demonstration with drums, street theatre, violin and song’ will mark the beginning of campaign in Galleria Market on Friday, April 13, at 5:30 pm. Making sure that nothing is purchased, the page reads, “Carry your own drinking water and snacks from home. No purchases.” Asmita theatre group will perform ‘Dastak’, a street play to raise the awareness against atrocities on women on the occasion.

Founded on March 14 on Facebook, the group’s first post read, “They want women to stop working after 8 because it's not safe. Fine. We will make the city safe. But we will also girlcott all shops, malls, movie theatres, salons, kiraana stores as a token gesture that says "women have the economic clout to call you out on your failings" Friday the 13th, April 2012 - Sunday 15th April. "Girlcott" all expenditure in Gurgaon and show your support by gathering on the 13th 5.30 pm onwards at Galleria Market in Gurgaon. Wake and take responsibility, Gurgaon.”

The obvious and well expressed motive of the group is to make the city safer for women that has been in news recently only for the crimes against the fairer sex. With this campaign the group wants to turn the heat on the mall owners and Kirana stores and movie theatres, to name a few, but how effective it would be on the ground remains to be seen.

Pradeep Bhatia, a Gurgaon resident detests crime against women, and wants administration to be as vibrant as possible but he is not very sure about the success of ‘Gurgaon Girlcott’. “This is a good idea but it will raise awareness only among those who already are against the atrocities on women,” said Mr Bhatia, adding, “Skipping shopping on weekend means that women will shop during weekdays, so who will be affected – obviously no one.”

Ms Dubey doesn’t agree and rather believes that the campaign aims at a long-term change. “The success of the Girlcott does not lie in how much money we can stop from going out to Gurgaon but in how many people can be mobilised to do something for long term change and awareness,” she told Merinews.

Detailing the long-term goals, Ms Dubey says ‘Gurgaon Girlcott’ has been co-opting a movement for urban and social design intervention involving Jagori, Whypoll, Indian Institute for Human Settlements, and Institute of Urban Designers India, We, the people, Saksham Gurgaon and several other individuals.“A commitment for safety audits in the city, a process by which after the current baseline survey is over, we can have a community engagement to identify specific issues in specific wards: be they urban design or social design, says a confident Ms Dubey, adding, “This is to be followed by a "ground-truthing" process in which these issues will be verified, a set of recommendations prepared ; implementation processes created by co-opting the MCG councillors and the corporation in a ward-wise manner and then follow ups done to ensure implementation.”
She believes that ‘Girlcott’ is just a catalyst and a lot more work lies ahead “and yes, we have begun,” she says.
Though this is a novel protest compared to usual methods of candlelight marches and sloganeering and is sure to catch eyeballs but would that be enough to stop the crime against women? Surely, not. Pertinent to mention is the fact as to how many women would change their weekend plans and join this group. Shuchi Jain, who works and resides in Gurgaon, has also joined the group but she doesn’t hope that the group will bring any change in the attitude of either the administration or businessmen.

“A friend told me to join and I joined but yes, this will raise the awareness level due to its novelty to some extent,” said Ms Jain. On being asked if she will boycott shopping on weekend, she replied: “No, I won’t. If I have to buy anything from a particular shop on weekend, even if I boycott on that particular day, I would have to buy it during the weekday from the same shop, so how does it matter?”

Proving Ms Jain’s point is the fact that the group has requested 1301 members on Facebook to join the protest and only 100 members have accepted the invitation while 55 others are not sure. Adds Sunil Tandon, a real-estate agent in Gurgaon: “Shopping is a kind of temptation for women and I am not sure whether they can actually skip it. Nevertheless, it would be a relaxing weekend for husbands and boyfriends,” Mr Tandon says in a lighter vein.

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