With 10 incredible women taking center stage at Delhi’s Pullman Hotel in Aerocity, The Quint’s “Me, The Change” event, presented by Facebook India, was an evening exemplifying the spunk and grit of India’s first-time women voters.
Acclaimed actor Taapsee Pannu felicitated women achievers from across India — a Santhali RJ, an international rugby player, a female dhol player from Punjab, and a wrestler from Delhi. In her interactions with them, she learnt their path-breaking stories, and even a few tricks of the trade, such as a wrestling move by Dangal-Queen Divya Kakran.
The evening started off with a conversation between Taapsee Pannu and Raghav Bahl, Founder and Editor-in-Chief of The Quint. Taapsee said, “I was delighted to receive so many fan mails from women after Marmaziyaan, for portraying a ‘bindaas’ girl who was confident about her sexuality, and accepting of her flaws. Why should women have to regulate what they think?” She also added, “You know yourself better than anyone else who tells you what you can or cannot do.”
Wrestler Divya Kakran too had something to say about breaking stereotypes, divulging, “Earlier, people had a lot of extremely nasty things to say about me to my parents. For instance, they would ask, will you get her to do anything for money? Now the same people ask for my autographs! When I needed help, no one offered any. Now, everyone comes to take credit and congratulate me for my medals.”
Not caring about “log kya kahenge” was the constant essence of the evening. Mariam Rauf, a child safety educator in Kerala and a child sexual abuse survivor, questioned why she should be ashamed about her experience. “When I finally confessed to my mother about the sexual abuse I had faced, instead of saying “log kya kahenge”, she told me to “go tell whoever you want.””
Not only have the 10 achievers completely changed their worlds, but through their achievements, they have proven themselves to be an inspiration for so many other young women. Shikha Mandi, the only woman Santhali RJ in India, said, “Women from my area are asking me if they too can be RJs. They are thinking beyond sarkari naukris. They now feel that they too can pursue their “mann ki naukri!””
Requesting the Government to support acid attack survivors so that they can live an independent life, Anshu Rajput spoke about how she was attacked with acid when she was 15 years old, stating, “Face har kisi ke paas hota hai, lekin dil sirf kuch kuch logo ke paas hota hai.”
Punjab’s Jahan Geet Singh, India’s youngest female dhol player, spoke of how she decided to take up ‘dhol’ playing. She mentioned that playing ‘dhol’ had its own stigma. Because of its weight, society has always maintained that only men “dhol bajaa sakte hai.”
Nirbhaya’s mother, Asha Devi, was also present at the event, providing the young achievers with inspiration through her story of struggle and perseverance. She said, “Haq se maangna aur milna bahut alag hai. It’s been 6 years since the incident. Abhi bhi insaaf nahi mila. I’m still stuck in 2012, waiting for when justice will prevail for my daughter.”
Speaking at the event, Shelley Thakral, Head of Policy Programs, India, South Asia, and Central Asia, Facebook, said, “Facebook has tremendous potential to become a tool for democracy. More than ever, women are an important voice in the 2019 elections. Facebook is doing everything it can to build integrity.”
Ms. Ritu Kapur, CEO, The Quint, said, “The Quint’s Me The Change event was a celebration of the gumption and audacity of India’s first time woman voter. The feisty young women spoke their mind and demanded that they be facilitated in order to realise their dreams. It was a charged evening – with wrestler Divya Kakran bringing the house down when she lifted Taapsee Pannu on her shoulders to young rugby player, Shweta Shahi announcing that her video on the Quint had led to her being invited by World Rugby Meet in London. I have to say that I am extremely impressed and moved by Taapsee’s absolute investment in the initiative and the warmth and encouragement she extended to the Me The Change achievers.”
The evening ended with a dhol performance by Jahan Geet Singh, with all the other achievers dancing to the beats. As the girls danced with abandon, with a delighted audience cheering them on, the dhol beats heralded the arrival of the first-time woman voter. She’s ready to change India; are we ready for her?