We The Women - a unique, participatory, one of its kind festival, created by BarkhaDuttand presented by Facebook & UN Women was held at The Lalit Ashok Hotel, Bangalore.
The day long festivalfilled with meaningful conversation, unfettered camaraderie, great art and musicbrought together a diverse group of exemplary men and women from all walks of life.Moreover, the event also highlighted one year of the #MeToo movement.
A star-studded stage had guests including Sandhya Menon (Journalist), Actors Sara Ali Khan, Jim Sarbh, and Ratna Pathak Shah, Rekha Menon (Senior Managing Director- Accenture), Preetha Reddy (Vice Chairperson- Apollo Hospitals), Keshav Suri, Dr Jyotsna Suri, Nisha Millet (Olympic Swimmer), Nirupama Rao (Former foreign secretary), ChinmayaSripada (Playback Singer)and Dutee Chand (India's fastest woman) amongst others.
We the Women festival was able to bring curtains open on dialogues on generational shifts in conversation among women in the film industry, racism and the obsession with fair skin, women leadership, women in sports, pride over prejudice in the fight to decriminalize homosexuality, and a tale of the sari. Additionally, the event also saw some musical performances by AabhaHanjuraand theoretical performances. Most importantly, a fitting tribute was given to women who literally soldier on, even when their husbands, sons, partners are no longer there.
The women who have been waging battle against sexual assaults for quite a long time were centre of discussion of the festival. Journalist Sandhya Menon spoke to actors Angela Mondal, ShrutiHariharan and playback singer ChinmayaSripada who advocated change in laws that deal with this issue.
Recalling the developments in the last one year of Me Too campaign, they lamented the victims and their families had to go through thanks to faceless comments on social media platform.
Kannada actor ShrutiHariharan opined, “Legal definition of assault has to be changed. The present sections vague and can be conceived differently. They put the victim in more trouble. The legal battle too takes a long time. Even after that battle too, I am not sure if justice has been done. However today I am sleeping peacefully for the fact I have raised voice against the exploitation”
Playback singer ChinmayaShripada added that “Fear of consequence of this battle is very scary. It impacts one’s image, career and her family too. Getting over that and wage the war against strong culprits may too prove futile after long fight. However, the fight must not stop. We need to keep this Me Too campaign going strong”
Another sparkling star who entertained the audience with her witty remarks, actor Sara Ali Khan said education will change women. Sharing her experiences of being lonely during her studies in New York, “I was not carrying any burden of being from a noble family. Nobody was recognising me there from my parent’s perspective. That gave me strength to being my own and face the situation”, she said.
Taking a note on definition of beauty, actor Sai Pallavi opined that “Our perception towards beauty needs to be changed. We have to learn to live with an idea of what we are. Deciding ones personality on basis of skin is ridiculous. Only you should be confidence about yourself and love the people around you”
India’s fastest woman Dutee Chand, who broke her own national record for over 10 times, lamented that the rules of the sports target only women. There are no gender tests for sportsman. Sportswomen are subjected to harmon tests….”.
Keshav Suri, who stood forefront in LGBT movement in India said “After legislation only change the LGBT people have experienced is that now they are not criminals. However, there is long way to go. The discrimination at work places and society as whole still going unchanged. It’s difficult for us to find the houses and jobs. Hence the perception of the society needs to be changed and its must start from home”
Entrepreneur Kiran Mazumdar Shaw opined the women’s era has come. “There are lot of discussions on gender equality. Women has to take advantage of this time which may short live before turning into equal world. They can do anything”, she added.
Former foreign secretary Nirupama Rao who launched Chirag, the symphony of love, said there are people to wish to love each other crossing the barriers. “Through my musical journey I wish to make situation ease to live and overcome hazards of conflicts”, she said announcing that she wish to bring South Asian countries closer together.
Rathna Pathak Shaw was vehement on the people who gauge people on colours. “In what culture we are living, when we talk, respect, treat the people based on their colours”, she questioned. “People, especially women, should not heed to these and live the way they wish to”, she said.
Actor, model Jim Sarbh who got in the concluding session of the festival recalled his journey. “I started to view theatre like a spiritual experience. You're on stage saying somebody else's lines, but you're saying them with full commitment of being that person.Ideally, for me, the power of appreciation lies in getting better roles and being given more responsibility as an actor”, he said.
Expressing her views, Award-Winning Journalist Barkha Dutt said, “We The Women, is a need of the hour platform that encourages uninterrupted speech and sparks engaging conversations. An annual event, we endeavour to bring together people from various backgrounds, promote discussions, and build a community of sorts “
The Campion, women rights crusader, Bhanwari Devi whose tireless fight paved the way for Vishakha guidelines, PayalChanded, 17 years old child prodigy who was conferred with Global Change prestigious award by United Nations in 2019, women leaders Rekha Menon, RoopaMoudgil, Preetha Reddy,Nisha Millet, Latha Reddy, the women who left undeterred even after losing their loved ones in battle MeghnaGirish, ShakuntalaBhandarkar and Salma Shafeeqand many others were shared their thoughts.