The Accidental Activist - Women Aloud!
One of the first things that a girl is taught is that she shouldn't
make too much noise. " it's not ladylike... girls shouldn't be so
loud... stop shouting!' Then you grow up and discover that there are
many things that you want to raise your voice about. There are
inequalities and injustices woven into the system that make you want
to shout out loud. Women get such a bad deal in life that very often
you are so mad that you want to scream.
I spent last week involved in an initiative that helps women raise
their voices. WAVE - Women Aloud Video Empowerment is the hard work of
Sapana Sahani and Angana Jhaveir and their NGO - Point of View. They
managed to raise the funds and get together thirty women from across
India to teach them how to represent women's issues in media. The
project aimed to train women to become citizen journalists to tell
stories of positive change in their communities to an international
audience. And so I found myself facing a room full of young
enthusiastic woman. They came from as far away as Jammu and Kashmir
and Andaman and Nicobar islands. I was there to train them but the
truth is that I learnt more from them than they did from me.
My first lesson was about the reality of other lives in India. One of
the participants said that she wanted to make a film about half
widows. I had no clue about what she meant. ‘ Half widows are women
whose husbands have been picked up by the police or the army’ she
explained. ‘They are not officially widows and neither do they have a
man to run the house. They live in a twilight world.’ She was from
Jammu and Kashmir.
Another participant wanted to make a film that taught the inhabitants
of slums how to cope with climate change. That left me bewildered
until she explained ‘the woman in slums have no real access to water.
They have no official connections and they fight every day to get
their share from the tankers that come to the slums. When climate
change hits, the rich will still buy water - what will these poor
Another participant from Bihar wanted to teach women how to cope with
both water shortage and with floods. she came from a land that was
racked by extremes.
My second lesson came in sensitivity. Many of the participants already
ran NGO’s of their own, even though the average age was less than 25.
One amazing young woman ran an NGO that helped tackle child abuse -
and a tattoo parlour. As I began to use examples from different issues
that came to mind, hands went up in the audience. Young women began to
share the reality of what for me upto then had mainly been’ issues’. I
had to slow down and think about the top-of-the-mind examples I was
My last lesson came in motivation. There were several girls who did
not speak English. A translator did the best she could and I switched
into Hindi occasionally. Still - we were tackling complicated concepts
and I was sure that taking the Hindi speakers were being left behind.
When I paused to take questions - their hands shot up and their
questions proved that they had been fiercely following what I had been
saying. These women were not about to let language get in the way of
representing the issues that they cared about.
I looked at all those determined young faces in the audience. I
thought of the huge change that is needed to come about to make the
lives of women in India even close to equal to those of men. In
choosing to be part of this initiative these women had already become
a major part of that change. They were far too young to understand
the tremendous thing that they were setting out to do. I truly wish
them all the luck in the world. I hope they go out there and shout as
loud as they possibly can. Loud enough to be really heard.