How Indian Women Are Choosing To Challenge & Changing The World

How Indian Women Are Choosing To Challenge & Changing The World

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Dear Homegrown Reader,

A few days ago, I was at my gynaecologist’s. As I was waiting for my turn to get myself verified for or against the probability of polycystic ovaries, a young saree-clad pregnant woman, probably in her mid-20s, came and sat beside me. Quite the Chatty Cathy, I asked her what trimester was she on.

‘Second, and you?,’ she said instinctively until she looked at my tummy only to realise that I was probably not pregnant.

We shared a peal of short laughter and after another small round of the unnecessarily necessary ‘where do you live, what do you do’, she told me how it hurt to wear a saree but also how her mother-in-law insisted that she wear one at all times.

A little after, we met again at the pharmacist’s.

‘Maybe you should let Doctor Madam talk to your husband’, I said out loud and quickly bit my tongue as she pointed towards the man standing beside me in the queue – her husband who definitely shouldn’t have been privy to our plot.

With the excuse of having her offer me some water, we moved aside, away from her medicine-purchasing husband, where we hushedly discussed our plan of making the doctor officially advise the husband to not have her wear a saree and instead wear long, flowy clothes only.

Wondering why I would take you through this story?

This story, however mundane it might seem, might be revelatory of the fact that women find agency and solidarity, and the courage to challenge in the most little of ways, and that, more than anything, is what the spirit of Women’s Day is all about.

However, there’s another side to the coin as well.

Dr Sally Roesch Wagner reminds us, “History isn’t what happened. It’s who tells the story.” Several feminist historians have also told us that women’s voices have been largely been obliterated and silenced in the pages of history and, hence, the voices that we hear, even on International Women’s Day, unfortunately, rarely include voices of women that need to be heard.

Women’s Day was born out of turbulence – it grew out of the need to challenge norms in a newly-industrialised world that saw booming population growth and the rise of radical ideologies. Unlike what a lot of modern voices have us believe, far from acknowledging the ‘greatness of mothers, daughters, and sisters,’ this day needs to be celebrated as a day of urgent thought and call to action for women world-over. It was merely four days ago that we heard of an unspeakable crime that was committed by a father on his daughter because she was in love with a man he didn’t want her to be with. Few days before that, we heard of women discarded away in the fields as a means of revenge. Enveloped in the patriarchal dichotomy of ‘safety’ and ‘peril’, women’s lives, even after centuries, continue to not be their own and their bodies continue to be sites of pride, revenge, and patriarchal installations.

My motive here is not to stir you today with the mention of these rather gory references. We know that the problem is structural and every act of hope comes after a long struggle – longer than it should be and much longer than it makes sense to, and yet, women keep fighting and challenging.

As of 2021, as Women’s Day is being celebrated with the spirit of #choosetochallenge, we bring to you stories of hope and finding agency in the most little of ways in the world.

Rebellion can be found in the smallest of acts. In fact, some might say that it’s the little acts of resistance that lead to bigger structural transformations. The South Asian society is notoriously known to be bound by patriarchy and a pseudo-feudalistic mindset which after centuries of modification and crystallisation, exhibits itself in the form of restrictions and a veil of shame and guilt.

Women, especially in South Asia, have lately been speaking up louder than ever – for themselves and for others – and they are here to make sure that no matter how long it takes, they will keep fighting through.

First up, therefore, allow me to introduce you to Priyanka Yadav, a research analyst from Delhi, who spoke to us about a seemingly simple act of shaving her head –– rather simpler without society’s constant scrutiny over women, their bodies and their choices.

With increasing pressure from her family to get married, Priyanka faced her fair share of apprehensions. It is not easy to let go of something that everyone in your life identifies you by. However, at some point, Priyanka’s wishes outweighed the opinions of others.

Read Meghna Mathew’s conversation with Priyanka here.

Quite courageously, Niharika Ghosh opens up and tells us, “About a decade and few more years ago, in grade VI, one of my classmates suddenly got her period and stained her school uniform in the middle of our classes. Astounded and upset as she was, her plight wasn’t enough for the rest of us to withhold our rather acidulous chiacking. My friends and I shamelessly joined in with the boys in our class in fits of laughter, making her feel conscious, even ashamed about a very natural yet unfortunate thing that had happened to her. I cringe at my 12-year-old self as I remember rolling my eyes at her with a lot of conviction – as if it was a legit thing to do. 14 years down the line, I would do anything to go back and do it differently – perhaps, stand up and tell myself or my school friends that this is absolutely not how it’s meant to be done.”

Niharika is more than thankful to social media for making her unlearn this ingrained misogyny and making her move towards recognising the power of sisterhood.

Ever been ridiculed for being dark-skinned? Have had parents and grandparents and strangers gasp at the possibility of you getting tan?

All of us.

Being told that having fair skin determines the very quality of your life and the availability of opportunities right from jobs to marriage prospects is now a ‘normal’ part of so many people’s lives in this country. The mindset has even led to recent cases of outright discrimination against Africans in the country, earning us a label as one of the most racist countries in the world.

Despite being a lived reality for so many people, especially women, the narrative is slowly changing though. A tiny revolution against it is building up as more and more young people speak up about its absurdity through various mediums — be it spoken word poetry, art, illustrations or simply opening up via social media about the injustice of it all.

With India advancing in the various facets of the technology spectrum, you can rest assured that Indian entrepreneurs, scientists, and developers are making wave in AI as well. While there are several notable AI startups and companies worth the mention, we decided to curate a list of successful Indian AI start-ups led by women.

There is plenty of fish in the sea, it’s true ... especially when you’re still in your 20s. What they don’t tell you is that a majority of those fish find other fish and by the time you hit the big 3-0, you’re left with a pitiful pond at the most, and its fish population is dying faster courtesy of groundwater poisoning. At least, that’s what the lady-fish are led to believe. It’s interesting, isn’t it, how the exact same situation can be viewed with such polarity when looked at via the lens of gender? That society views a woman who is ‘ageing’ and unmarried with pity or disdain, no matter the successes of their path less travelled.

For women who choose or find themselves in this bracket, it’s a life fraught with challenges. Yet, somewhere between the nosey aunties announcing that our sex appeal has ‘expired’ and the kinder aunties who make it their mission to “fix” our single-by-choice attitude with all the finesse of a gay conversion camp, there’s a whole breed of firebrand women—now more than ever—who refuse to succumb to these pressures.

We took deeply personal journeys with over 10 Indian women who did just this, questioning them on the endless stereotypes, the exhausting myths and the ever-changing realities. Here are their stories of struggles and triumphs as they embrace single-hood in their 30s.

Music truly has the power to connect diverse voices, and to that end, here is a list celebrating emerging as well as innovative female voices of the indie music scene.

Stepping away from the comfort of your own home can be extremely freeing but at the same time, can be daunting. The outside world is filled with curves and obstacles that could taint our lives forever. As a woman, navigating spaces could produce its own novel problems.

Here’s what some young women had to say about their experience of living away from home.

Earlier this week, Homegrown spoke to women about the complicated relationship with their bodies. I have also been one to have had a love-hate relationship with mine and so, as Homegrown gives me the platform to finally tell the world that I have always secretly wished I could wear sleeveless clothes, that I wish being ‘fat’ was just another compliment like ‘beautiful’ or ‘gorgeous’ and that I wish that 15-year-old me was as proud of her beautiful body and face as she was of her brains, I bring to you the stories of women of different kinds, who, much like me, share a complicated relationship with their bodies and are trying to learn to love the only thing that has literally got their back in life.

As India’s biggest youth media platform, Homegrown offers an in-depth analysis of various themes that the Indian youth should know about besides bringing to you the latest takes on worldly ongoings. Watch out for our newsletters from different cultural desks at Homegrown.

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Until next week!



Features Editor, Homegrown

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