Mumbai: The third edition of We The Women – a unique, one-day participatory, created and curated by Barkha Dutt for Facebook & UN Women returned to Mumbai on 1st December 2019 at Mehboob Studio, Bandra.
Revolving on the theme of #openingdoors, the festival of unfettered freedom brought together a diverse group of exemplary men and women from all walks of life. The star-studded stage saw people like Sania Mirza (Professional tennis player), Film Director & Producer Karan Johar, Actress Katrina Kaif, Sandeep Khosla (Indian fashion designer), Cancer Survivors Lisa Ray, Sonali Bendre and Tahira Kashyap, Actress Alia Bhatt and her sister Shaheen Bhatt, Shaina NC (Indian fashion designer, politician, and social worker), amongst others.
Sania Mirza spoke on smashing stereotypes and dwelled on her stellar journey so far which has inspired millions of little girls. She said, “I was given a tag of being rebellious, but I wasn’t and this was because I spoke. I feel equality plays a serious issue in every genre even in Bollywood. Women have to face this everyday battle. If you are better looking women today, people tend to not take you too seriously.”
Dolly Thakore (Indian Theatre Actress) was in a candid conversation with Priyanka Chaturvedi (Shiv Sena Politician), Shaina NC (Indian fashion designer, politician, and social worker) and Shama Mohamed (Dentist) on the most ruled topic “Is Politics Still a Man’s World.” The session highlighted personal experiences of panellists and insights to touch upon the challenges that are unique to women in politics and the ways in which they can be handled.
“Tackling the complexities of Indian politics is difficult for the layman as well as an experienced politician. However, women who wish to excel in the field continue to face tremendous backlash especially from within their party,” said Shaina NC.
Asha Devi (Nirbhaya’s mother) & Seeta Prajapat with Mrunalini Deshmukh (Divorce Lawyer) had a candid conversation on rape and the trauma they faced fighting for justice.
Seema Prajapat spoke on how brutally she was raped and the impact of being lonely when her mom and family decided to leave her. Now sitting on a wheelchair, she came with confidence to inspire daughters of the nation to live with pride and never give up.
Asha Devi (Nirbhaya’s mother) said, “Tears will not work, we have to fight harder for justice.”
The recent tragedy that took place in Hyderabad where a vet was raped and murdered has left the nation in trauma. Victim’s sister sent a message that all of us should appeal for a Safer India. Her video message which was played at We The Women said, “My sister has been raped and killed very brutally and this should not happen with any girl anymore. For this to happen, there must be change in the mentality of the society and awareness should increase. In addition to this, Government should give such punishments and implement such laws that no one even thinks of doing such things. The justice that I am expecting is that the accused must be hanged, and this justice should not be delayed. We all should fight for a safer India.”
Later, renowned film-maker Karan Johar spoke about ’10 things men must change about Bollywood’, an important topic in today’s time. Karan Johar expressed, “First thing men need to generally change is ‘fake sense of women empowerment’, even a gradual change is a change. A liberating man is a man who understands the power of a woman.”
“It does not matter if a boy wears pink or plays with a barbie doll. It does not mean that cars are for boys and dolls for women. It should be the endeavour of parents to change this”, he further added.
Shelley Thakral (Head of Policy Programs for India, South Asia and Central Asia at Facebook) spoke to the powering women in uniform as mothers and wives, DIG Nitu Bhattacharya & DCP Rema Rajeshwari.
DIG Nitu Bhattacharya radiated indomitable strength as she openly expressed the emotions of a CRPF mother, “So every day when my daughter goes to school, I am aware that the timing and the route cannot be changed and while the mother in me sees the water-bottle dangling and the soldier in me looks and scans the route she is to take. When she returns from school in the evening, homework is the least of my priority.” She also acknowledged the complexity of feelings that the mother of a soldier undergoes by saying, “Every time an operation takes place in Kashmir, does my mom’s hands quiver, does she know that she cannot make a phone call as in any I will not take the call, does she scan the pixels of her TV trying to find out is her daughter involved, does she feel guilty every time she knows it is not me. She makes a sigh of relief and yet she knows it is one of us.”
Katrina Kaif in a candid conversation with Barkha Dutt said, “My constant perseverance is to fight and not be seen as an overpowering woman. I have some friends who have genuinely been good listeners, Kabir Khan and Ali Abbas Zafar to name a few. I have changed a lot overtime, my personality choose the roles I do.”
Women warriors and Cancer Survivors Sonali Bendre, Lisa Ray, Tahira Kashyap spoke on their journey and how they have been battling with their illness.
Tahira Kashyap said, “Things were going well including my career graph and my illness came up. I was ready for it as I knew I had to fight it.”
Divya Salaskar, Anjali Kulthe and Devika Natwarlal the actual sheroes of 26/11 shared their experiences and how they faced the terrific night of 26/11. Divya, daughter of encounter specialist Vijay Salaskar who was 21 when her father was killed. Divya said, “I would never know what actually conspired in those 7 minutes on the night of 26/11.”
Anjalu Kulthe, the braveheart nurse not only played a vital role in saves numerous lives but also identified and testified against Ajmal Kasab. She spoke about how she derived her strength from her uniform.
Another important session highlighted ‘Rent-A-Womb’ debating on commercial surrogacy with Dr. Nozer Sheriar, Dr. Jaideep Malhotra & Mrunalini Deshmukh (Divorce Lawyer) along with Girija Shivakumar (Executive Director, We The Women Asia).
In today’s age when mental health is a pressing topic and needs urgent attention, celebrity sisters Alia Bhatt and Shaheen Bhatt spoke at a closing session on Women, Mental Health & Wellness.
Shaheen and Alia Bhatt were in a candid conversation on how Shaheen has been facing depression and how the family has been supportive.
Shaheen Bhatt said, “For me, depression is chronic. There are days when I feel incredible and there are days when I feel I don’t want to be here. I think Alia has always been sensitive towards this, she’s the one who’s always held me down. Being depressed is very hard but loving someone who is depressed is the hardest.”
Alia Bhatt said, “Every cell in my body jumps when I see my sister Shaheen like this not because she is my sister but because she is a good human being. Every moment is a new moment to feel the way you feel.”
Expressing her views about the day-long participatory, Award-Winning Journalist Barkha Dutt said, “We The Women strives to provide a platform where people from all walks of life can congregate to have important discussions. This multi-city platform promises great conversations and celebrates women’s spirited courage.”
Furthermore, ‘We the Women’ forum exchanged dialogues and encouraged talks on various topics like ‘India First: 9 Year Battle to Get a No Caste, No Religion Identity, ‘Should Size Matter: Is The Perfect Body a Myth?’, ‘Women Scripting the Future’, ‘Rent-A-Womb’- Debating Commercial Surrogacy and more.
The festival also honoured men and women who showed excellence in their areas, taking risks, battling the odds and coming their way to success.