From societal restrictions and conditioned environment to institutional expectations, it is not easy being a woman in India.
Women from every class and caste in India face challenges that are gender exclusive. March 8 is the International Day for Women. Virago Media Private Limited and Vibes of India are committed to the cause of women and their empowerment.
The United Nations’ theme for International Women’s Day, 8 March 2023 (IWD 2023) is DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality. Vibes of India salutes a few significant changemakers and leaders from Gujarat who are working towards a better, safer place for women.
Vibes of India believes in a world where there would just be leaders, not men or women leaders. But as of now, that is just a dream. However, do watch and read about our changemakers and the valuable work they are doing in their respective areas. All our women are Viragos. Fierce women, breaking stereotypes and not afraid to be loud and themselves. Touching upon topics and issues that are very much in front of us but are not addressed rigorously as they should be.
Our Viragos, women leaders Kalpana Gagdekar, Raj, Falguni Vasavada, Amrita Mulchandani, Raksha Bharadia, Geniben Thakor and Dipal Nanavati talk about issues they are passionate about. Of course, struggles are a part of every woman’s journey but here our Viragos focus on issues they are passionate about. From community theatre to climate change, from veganism to body positivity, from entrepreneurship to sex, from the need for more women in politics to facing widowhood with a smile and passion to give life a second, third or even, fourth chance. As women surge ahead and try to find their place and forte’ in the digital world, there is again a dark spot. Cyberbullying, online safety, and e frauds dissuade several women, those who are not digital natives and shaky migrants who cherish a safe online space. Cyber Cells’ ACP Jitendra Yadav of Gujarat police has assured us that women should not be scared. They should of course be cautious but going offline because of nasty experience/s is not the way out. Jitendra Yadav explains in detail about the laws and safety that the police promise to women who go online.
Women & Their Right To Dream.
Your Dream has the Right to Live. These very lines inspired Kalpana Gagdekar. Life was not easy for this woman born in a marginalized community that also had the infamous branding as a criminal community.
Kalpana, like most girls in her Chhara community, married early. At 16, she already delivered her first child. She came to Ahmedabad after marriage. The family she was married into was her own community.
Kalpana had to struggle to contribute to the family, especially after the death of her father-in-law. In the mornings, she would deliver milk. Later, she sold vegetables on the footpath. In the afternoons, she would help her mother-in-law to brew liquor. The area she lived in Chharanagar is known as the cottage industry of liquor brewing in Gujarat. Government schemes hardly reach here. Politicians make promises to “transform” the demographics here but all these are hollow promises.
Alcohol is prohibited in Gujarat but the backward Chharanagar, bereft of any welfare schemes, has almost all homes brewing liquor in their backyards. Poor men would come for their potlis in the evenings. Several Chhara men die early because of alcohol addiction. The community is small so the ruling parties, whichever they are, are not concerned as the number of votes falls behind the number of valid, realistic demands of the area. Back to Kalpana. After brewing liquor, she would then sit on the road selling bhajiyas. This was her life. But amidst all this, she started acting in street plays organised in her area. It was then that she heard an eminent Bengali litterateur and activist Mahasweta Devi who inspired her to pursue a better life. I remember Mahasweta Devi saying that every dream has a right to live. That became my mantra, says Kalpana.
Today Kalpana is living her dream. She is an acclaimed artist and an activist working for the upliftment of her community in Chharanagar. She has done several super hit Gujarati movies and has been nominated for
awards. Her performance as Kasturba in a play of the same name brought her national acclaim.
And because she believed in her dream, which is ‘the right to live, she recently shared the big screen with superstar Amitabh Bachchan in the Gujarati film Fakt Mahilao Maate.
Watch Kalpana’s Video: Women & Community Activism here:
Follow her on-
Instagram: @kalpana.gagdekar.chhara , Twitter: @KalpanaChhara , Facebook: Kalpana Gagdekar
Women, Climate Change & Veganism
Billions of dollars are spent on climate change. But unfortunately, not enough women are involved in tackling the issue. Do you know, women and climate change are interconnected? And that involving and engaging women in the climate crisis can yield better results. Meet Raj, a vegan entrepreneur.
She has data to prove that women are disproportionately affected by climate change owing to economic, social, and cultural factors. This is not on account of inherent vulnerability but the result of gender inequalities in the political, social and economic realms that intersect with other axes of social disadvantage such as race, sexuality, gender identity and disability status. For example, during and after climate-related events, women and girls are more exposed to gender-based violence, and girls are less likely than boys to continue their education. Raj says empowering and involving women in climate change actions can help the world become a better and safer place.
Raj who is committed to veganism in life and business says climate change is a reality. The way we eat and treat nature contributes to climate change. And veganism is the way. Internationally acclaimed environmental activist, the young Greta Thunberg, emphasizes that a vegan diet is the biggest way to reduce the negative impact on Earth’s ecosystems. “Not just greenhouse gases, but global acidification, eutrophication, land use and water use,” she adds.
Raj believes it is a myth that meat makes us stronger. Citing Oxford research she says, meat and dairy only provide humans with 18% calories and 37% protein but farming them uses up 83% of agricultural land and generates 60% of agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions. Eliminating meat and dairy farms would also be a huge boon to wild animals since the percentage of the planet used for agriculture could then be reduced by more than 75%. That would still be enough to feed the planet. An area of the size of China, the US, the EU and Australia combined would be free for wildlife conservation.
Thunberg says, “Every year we kill more than 60 billion animals, excluding fish, whose numbers are so great that we only measure their lives by weight.” “What about their thoughts and feelings? Some animals plan for the future and forge friendships that last for decades. They play, help each other, and show signs of what we call empathy. But 70% of the animals we farm live inside factories … their lives are short and terrible. Raj believes our diets play an important role in determining the fate of our planet.
Consumption of meat and dairy products is the leading cause of greenhouse emissions, deforestation, and biodiversity loss. Adopting plant-based and vegan diets could help us achieve our goals of a sustainable and safe planet.
Raj is committed to the cause of a better, cruelty-free, climate-friendly world. She believes that wellness is not a luxury but a necessity and that a vegan diet promotes good health while taking care of our planet and its inhabitants.
Watch Raj’s video Video: Women, Climate Change & Veganism
Follow Raj on Instagram: @happysexyvegan
Women & Body Positivity
Popular culture and the media (sadly, yes) promote stereotypes in the form of body, skin, hair, looks, weight, and height. We’re called out if we don’t tick these boxes, especially in public life. Body shaming doesn’t just concern celebrities. Many of us may have gone through the phase when we were told that we cannot wear a particular dress because of our weight. That we cannot put a particular shade of lipstick because of our skin colour. Body shaming can significantly impact our self-esteem, self-confidence, mood and relationships. Prof Falguni Vasavada Oza, like millions of us average women, has been a victim of body shaming. But unlike many of us, she has emerged as a rockstar handling the issue. Through various social media handles and personal interactions, Prof Falguni promotes body positivity and concretely works towards making this world a more body-positive place. So right from the time we are teenagers or kids, we do not have to hide our bodies with a sense of guilt that we don’t fit in.
Watch Falguni’s Full Video: Women & Body Positivity | Prof Falguni Vasavada Oza, MICA, Ahmedabad
Follow her on-
Instagram: @falgunivasavada, Twitter: @Falgunivasavada and Facebook: Falguni Vasavada Oza
Goodbye Jobs, Embrace Entrepreneurship
Meet Amrita Mulchandani, once a journalist and now a very successful businesswoman. Amrita’s trademark Blackk Spalons has changed the dynamics of the beauty and salon segment in Gujarat. After over a decade of devotion to the salon segment, Amrita then forayed into education and fitness. Her Blackk Fitnasium, spread across 11,000 sq feet, is known for its sophisticated equipment and skilled trainers. Her badminton academy is a ground for future champions. Of course, entrepreneurship means focused work, strategic decisions, hours of toil, and years of hard work. But then, as Amrita says, she derives satisfaction from employing over a hundred people. And of course, it is a great feeling to be the number one revenue-earning establishment. We can’t agree more!
Video: Women and Entrepreneurship | Amrita Mulchandani, Blackk Spalons, Fitnasium, Sports Academy
Follow her on-
Instagram: @official_blackkspalon, @blackktraxx, @blackkademia, @blackkandone
Let’s Talk Sex
Sex is a subject that many women still do not want to openly talk about. Raksha Bharadia says that women treat themselves as second-class citizens between the sheets and she means it. When it comes to sex, women, surprisingly, have made peace with ‘giving’ rather than ‘participating’ or enjoying it.
Founder of Bonobology, a comprehensive platform for romantic love and relationships for urban couples, Raksha’s platform is a relationship companion to all those chasing a single life to dating, from cishet couples to the LGBTQA+ community. Bonobology (www.bonobology.com) navigates the challenges of long-term
relationships, marriage, parenting, divorce, and dealing with issues of infidelity, toxicity, and abuse to help people take a leap of faith in finding love again. Raksha says there is an absolute, systematic suppression of women’s sexuality in our society. If you have a low libido, you are considered a good girl. Raksha talks about boredom in the bedroom, faking orgasms, and why it is important to demand more sex from your partner and not view sex as a chore. Also, it is okay for women to discuss masturbation. Are you ready?
Watch Raksha’s video on Women & Sex | Raksha Bharadia
Follow her on-
Instagram: @rakshabharadia Facebook: Raksha Bharadia
Women & Politics
In a democracy, nobody has more power than those to whom we entrust power. India is the world’s largest democracy but, sadly, we are still not able to give a fair representation to women in our Assemblies and Parliament. There are very few self- made women politicians. It is easy to be a politician if you are a male politician’s daughter, wife, mistress, sister, or rich. But Geniben is an exception. The 47-year-old is indeed a self-made politician. In 2022, when Congress won a measly 17 of the 182 seats in Gujarat, she was one of the winners. In fact, she is the only Congress woman MLA in Gujarat. Geniben strongly believes that women should not shy away from entering active politics to make a real difference. When women get into politics, they can make government schemes more accessible to other women and convert the schemes from lifeless documents to reality. If you want decisive change at Ground Zero, get more women into politics, tells Geniben.
Watch Geniben ‘s video | Geniben Thakor, Congress MLA, Gujarat
Follow her on-
Instagram: @genibenthakor_, Twitter: @GenibenThakor Facebook: Geniben Thakor
Women & Widowhood
Falling in love at an early age, getting married, and having two children is no crime. In fact, that is what Dipal Nanavati dreamt of and wanted. However, she became a widow at 26 with two kids below the age of four. Life was a struggle and Dipal knows what it is to be lonely, unemployed and without any support. However, she managed to get a low-level entry into a government job. She was posted in an interior village in Bhavnagar district where she roughed it out for two years with two kids and absolutely no support. After decades of enduring hardships, Dipal is a deputy superintendent with the Gujarat government’s electricity company and a successful singer and event manager.
A must-have during Navratri, Dipal’s event company offers a platform to over 100 artists and, interestingly, all those actively involved are government employees who rehearse and ideate during the weekends. An award-winning artist herself, Dipal is a badminton champion too. She has raised two wonderful kids. Her daughter, Dr Kausha, works at a health department for the government in Canada. Her son, Nisarg, is a computer engineer. She does not complain. Destiny gives. We must make our way ahead, says this brave woman.
Watch Dipal’s video here:
Follow her on-
Instagram: @dipalnanavati and Facebook: Dipal Nanavati
Hey Women, Go Online. You Are DigitALLY Safe.
The United Nations’ theme for International Women’s Day 2023 is DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality. India, however, faces a serious issue of women being abused, trolled, harassed and cheated online. According to ACP Jitendra Yadav of Ahmedabad’s Cyber Cell branch, the police receive at least
half-a-dozen complaints a month. When online friendships go sour, fake IDs are made, nude photos are uploaded, women are portrayed as characterless, and their integrity is compromised. In some cases, women are befriended online and cheated in the name of marriage/gifts. They lose money but are scared to approach the police as they fear retaliation and humiliation from their own families. So, while DigitALL is very encouraging, it is equally important that women find a safe space online. That they are not cyberbullied, cheated or abused. ACP Yadav insists that women should not hesitate in approaching the police when they find themselves in an undesirable situation on any platform. The police helpline to approach for help for
any online-related issue in Gujarat is 1930. ACP Yadav assures that the police will not reveal the complainant’s identity and that all legal processes are undertaken in a safe and structured manner. This is to ensure that the complainant is comfortable speaking out and approaching the police.
Watch Jitendra Yadav’s video and find important tips for online safety here:
Vibes of India wishes its readers, viewers and patrons a Happy Women’s Day 2023.