Women Writers Festival - Where Words Reigned
Alfaaz jo ugte, murjhate, jalte, bujhte
Rehte haiṅ mere charo taraf
Alfaaz jo mere gird patango ki surat uḍte
Rehte haiṅ raat aur din
In lafzoṅ ke kirdaar haiṅ
Words which bloom, wither, wilt, burn and die always surround me. Words which keep flying like moth, are with me day and night, these words have character, they have life. These words by Gulzar somehow echo to me the fact that how good readers women are and how they make even better writers. The Women Writers Festival organised by SheThePeople and the Vedica Scholars Programme provided a forum to discuss about women in workforce, challenges around, motherhood being the battleground, women reporting from war zones, all by prolific women writers. They are all the ones who have lived the characters before they chose to pen them. These sessions actually provide mirror for the thought. The thoughts which circle within minds take life in such discussions. Thinking funds our thoughts and the journey of introspection gives rise to multiple emotions.
Writing more about women in workforce is the key for gender balance. It was interesting to hear the session titled, Women Along the Fault Lines, which had panelists, who did reporting from conflict areas share stories about war zones. Bahar Dutt, Columnist, Wildlife Biologist said that though she encounters many moments of conflict in her professional life, the conflict that she is feeling right now is about leaving her three year old daughter at home and about her evening park rounds. It comes naturally to a mother. Anubha Bhonsle, Executive Director CNN IBN pointed out that the spirit of a woman somehow gets lost in victimisation. She very aptly said being a Woman writer and writing about women are two different things. As per Suhasini Haidar, Strategic & Diplomatic Affairs Editor, The Hindu, being a woman allows you to cover certain stories and not some others. Though being a woman is only incidental to her as she is a thorough professional. The impulse driving a man and woman towards reporting into war zone are the same.
Then there was another interesting session called Change Begins at Home. This had some quirky commentaries coming. Veena Venugopal, Editor of Blink and Author of the book Mother-In-Law, mentioned how even in very urban, cosmopolitan homes women are subjected to restrictions by their mothers-in- law. Her book had many patrons in no time for obvious empathetic association with the subject.
Natasha Bhadawar, Mint Columnist said that there is always someone trying to push you into a box and you have to speak a language against it. The idea of feminism is changing stage by stage. We need to reinvent a new version of ourselves.
Bee Rowlat, the moderator of discussion, said that these words by her role model Mary inspire her a lot, "I don't wish women power over men but over themselves." The importance of having role models and mentors is equally important.
The other discussion titled, The F word - Is the Workplace Ready? Had the entire house in splits when Radhika Vaz, Standup comedian and Columnist said that she loves making facial expressions and since didn't face enough misogyny in the corporate world she chose the road of entertainment. She also said that she is a big fan of quotas as there is a big gap in numbers.
Urvashi Bhutalia, Publisher at Zubaan in a very unassuming manner spoke that labels like feminist or humanist are important if they are empowering. We need to declutter the path towards change and move forward.
Ritu Kapur, Co founder, Quint said that since she is talent hungry she adopts a gender neutral approach in her hiring process. More than 70% of her team comprises of women.
Aparna Jain, Author of Own it, said that being gender neutral in hiring isn't enough. Gender Inclusive Recruitment is very important. There should be questions about sexual harassment at workplace and how safe the work place is.
In general a great need was felt to have such honest discussions with more inclusion of men into it. Usage of women swear words in language should be dropped. Women should be allowed to live their choices. The connotation of feminism in India stands highly distorted owing to the prevalent misconception of it being too westernized. There should be greater focus on choosing what you want to be.