Meet Three Powerhouses Who Get the Word Out
While waiting at a Calcutta hospital in 1985, Mallika Dutt noticed something strange about the women’s unit: it was full of burn victims.
Dutt, who grew up in India and was a recent graduate of Mount Holyoke College at the time, says that moment solidified her commitment to women’s rights.
"The fact that an entire women’s unit could be full of burn victims without it being declared a national emergency just stayed with me," she said.
She is best known for her ground-breaking use of media to make change happen. In 1989, Mallika Dutt co-founded Sakhi for South Asian Women, a nonprofit dedicated to ending domestic violence by helping women in New York’s large South Asian immigrant population. In the early part of her career, she also served as the associate director of the Center for Women’s Global Leadership at Rutgers University. Later, she worked as a program officer for human rights and social justice in the Ford Foundation‘s Delhi office.
When she returned to work in India after years in the United States, she realized that human rights advocacy often felt like an "echo chamber of the same people having the same conversations." Another issue she encountered was the reality that violence against women is mostly dealt with retroactively rather than by establishing prevention strategies.
"We weren’t really getting to a broader community," she said. She turned to pop culture.
In 2000, Mallika Dutt produced the music video "Mann ke Manjeere" (in Hindi, "Rhythm of the Mind") and an album of the same name featuring five songs about women’s rights. The music video told the true story of Shameem Pathan, a woman who became a truck driver to support herself and her child after leaving an abusive husband.
The success of the music video and the album led Mallika Dutt to found Breakthrough — with the goal of making violence and discrimination against women and girls unacceptable.
One of Breakthrough’s multimedia campaigns in India used street theater, bus ads and school-based workshops to help more than 700,000 people identify and respond to sexual harassment. The organization estimates that 90 percent of women and girls in India experience harassment.
In the United States, Breakthrough has begun to work with fraternity members and allies to openly discuss the elements of the campus rape culture and to challenge university presidents to end the campus rape culture as part of their legacy.
Dutt says that Breakthrough’s prevention strategy — shifting attitudes, engaging men and boys and using technology — has gained global traction.
"I really believe that we’re at a moment in history where we could see the tipping point," she said, acknowledging that while she believes violence against women is becoming more widespread, the movement to stop it is getting stronger.
"It feels within reach."
Kimberly Kelleher may have coined a new term: Friend-tor-ship.
It’s how Kelleher, the publisher and chief revenue officer of WIRED and Ars Technica, describes the way women mentor each other at New York Women in Communications, Inc. (NYWICI).
She describes Friend-tor-ships as different from mentorship models because they cover career and personal terrain.
"Friend-tor-ships talk more about how to get through life," Kelleher said. "Friend-tor-ship conversations are about how to manage it ALL."
A Wisconsin native with a history degree from the University of Wisconsin- Madison, Kelleher rose quickly in the intensely competitive New York media circles. She is the former president of Say Media, a digital magazine platform. Before that, Kelleher was the worldwide publisher of Time Inc. While she was with Time, her skills earned her the magazine industry’s ultimate award: Advertising Age Publisher of the Year in 2011. She previously was vice president and publisher of Sports Illustrated — the first female executive to lead its advertising sales.
Kelleher said she didn’t feel any of the early obstacles that women experience in their careers, but in her late 30s and early 40s, when she was trying to do it all, she became overwhelmed.
Enter Wendy Clark, formerly of Coca-Cola and now CEO of DDB North America, who "made the connection for me," as Kelleher recalled, by introducing her to a level of support that she came to think of as Friend-tor-ship.
"Wendy and I met in 2007, and I was absolutely blown away by her generosity of spirit and support with women," Kelleher said. "She showed me the support I didn’t even realize I had been missing and opened my eyes to paying that forward at the peer level as well as at the team level."
Linda Descano, formerly of Women and Co. at Citi and now executive vice president at Havas PR US, brought Kelleher into NYWICI. Today Kelleher is the president of the nonprofit organization of communications professionals in the metropolitan New York area. Of the over 2,000 NYWICI members, about a third are freelance entrepreneurs, according to Kelleher.
"What we promote is the small business," she said. "We have a lot of women who have broken out on their own."
New York Women in Communications, Inc. promotes leadership and professional development for women in the field during every stage of their careers. The organization’s scholarships and grants help women gain a footing in the industry. NYWICI Foundation Scholarship recipients include Tammy Tibbetts and Christen Brandt, co-founders of She’s the First, also honored as Women’s eNews 21 Leaders for 2016.
Kelleher said she looked forward to working with the next group of young women who will receive NYWICI scholarships.
"I can’t wait to see the day when we actually present them with a Matrix award. They are the future . . . "
By Sally Decker
Rachel Moran was prostituted in Dublin for seven years, starting at age 15. She got out of prostitution at 22 and at 24 returned to school to get her journalism degree from Dublin City University. She is now one of the leading figures in the efforts to shut down the sex trade.
She is the founder and executive director of SPACE International (Survivors of Prostitution-Abuse Calling for Enlightenment), an organization committed to educating the public, raising awareness and influencing political change surrounding the issue of prostitution abuse.
Women leaving the world of prostitution have the painful task of abandoning their entire community, she explained.
"You just have to walk away from everyone . . . I knew that the situation that I was in didn’t reflect anything remotely about what I wanted or what I was worth."
Moran first spoke publicly about her experience in prostitution at the Turn Off The Red Light campaign launch day in February 2011.
"I realized that I had to speak because it became clear to me during the course of that meeting that there was every voice imaginable in the room except the voice of the women who’d lived it,” she recalled.
Frustrated with her inability to express herself within the context of a national campaign, she began writing anonymous media articles and started her blog, "The Prostitution Experience," a year later. The following year, she published her memoir, "Paid For: My Journey Through Prostitution."
At about the same time as she launched her blog, Moran founded SPACE International. Her current role is organizing the witness testimony of the women of the seven participating countries — France, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Canada, the U.S. and the U.K. — and to "pull together the political strategy that will pull us forward into an abolition in the future."
SPACE International is a proponent of the Nordic model, which decriminalizes the sellers of sex and criminalizes the purchasers and profiteers, while offering exit strategies for those involved in the sex trade.
"It has to be considered intolerable with the law. Until it is, we’re going to keep on producing generations of boys who grow up to be men who think that women are on this earth to be bought and used for their own private sexual pleasure. And it’s exactly that belief that’s responsible for the nightmare that millions of women across the globe are enmeshed in."
SPACE International is lobbying against Amnesty International’s new position on prostitution. Amnesty’s board recently voted to endorse the decriminalization of all aspects of the sex trade. Moran said this perspective is to be expected since the sex trade is an institution "driven by male entitlement in which a lot of people have a financial stake . . . This is a fight that will span several lifetimes, but that’s not any excuse for us not to weigh in."