As a proud Founding Global Partner of the World Economic Forum’s Global Shapers Community, The Coca-Cola Company believes young people have an indispensable role in shaping a better, brighter and happier future. This special series highlights the semifinalists competing to win five $10,000 prizes as part of the Coca-Cola Shaping a Better Future Grant Challenge for the Global Shapers Community. Here, we highlight the Chennai (India) Hub.

Growing up in India, I felt anger at the normalization of gender injustice. My belief that the law is a powerful instrument for social change motivated me to go to law school.

After graduation, I began practicing as a human rights lawyer in the Madras High Court, with a focus on women’s rights. I soon realized that good legislation is only part of the solution. In spite of protective legislations, millions are unaware of their rights, conviction rates are abysmal and attitudes within the judiciary prevent rather than promote justice. Examples of judges telling victims of abuse to "adjust" to their circumstances and suggesting that rape victims mediate with or marry their rapist expose inadequacies in the current system and made evident the need for a change. To encourage law enforcement authorities to act with sensitivity and a sense of urgency, I conducted training and sensitization programs. In spite of these efforts I observed that these authorities were unable to shift deeply entrenched attitudes towards women. It became apparent that the insensitivity present within the Court system was symptomatic of widely held beliefs about women and gender roles in society.

Recognizing that gender socialization begins early and is reinforced by societal institutions, culture and media, I started Schools of Equality, which runs activity-based programs in schools which aim to shift social attitudes that perpetuate gender-based violence and other forms of social injustice. The program encourages students to question notions of power related to gender and its intersectionalities like caste, class, religion and sexuality; understand how societal institutions, media and culture perpetuate gender-based violence and other forms of social injustice; and shift social attitudes that perpetuate violence. As a part of the curriculum, they learn about their rights and work with various artists and performers to take action to build communities of respect. Although it was challenging to introduce this curriculum within the existing conservative school system, transformation amongst the students and action taken by them within their communities captured the attention of other schools, the national media and the local government. The local government in Chennai, Tamilnadu and Kadapa district, Andhra Pradesh has appreciated this innovative program and we have now introduced it government schools both at the city and village level.

Any money that we receive will be used to take our year-long program to government schools and to organize public campaigns and events where students from these schools can bring discussions about equality and human rights into the mainstream, share personal narratives and voice their opinions using different forms of expression. We have worked with 1441 students so far. The Coca-Cola grant will allow us to reach over 6,056 more people -- and each of them will go on to change the lives of countless others by passing on the skills, knowledge and courage they've gained. 



Chennai author


Gulika Reddy is a human rights lawyer and the founder of Schools of Equality. She is currently a Human Rights LL.M. Fellow at Columbia University. In the past, she has worked with lawyers, nonprofits and academic institutions on the rights of: women and children, indigenous communities, climate refugees, and slum-dwellers.