Change From Within

SAHER MOTIWALA

Gender stereotypes are being broken with self-realization, the duality of gender and the gender norms are now challenged with more understanding of the individual. Padma Shri awardee Urvashi Butalia is a renowned champion of the fight for gender equality, feminism and human rights. She has been a voice for the voiceless and authored several books and has founded Zubaan books in 2003, a feminist publishing house. Saher Motiwala speaks to Ms Butalia about the changing narrative around gender.

Illustration by/ John Edwards
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Often the power of change comes from within. There are so many things that are wrong in the world. The change is often slow and often met with so many obstacles. Perhaps challenging patriarchy with equality of all genders is a struggle that has been going on for as long as one can remember. Women might have got the right to vote a century ago, but even today true equality is far from achieved. Gender stereotypes are being broken with self-realization, the duality of gender and the gender norms are now challenged with more understanding of the individual.

Padma Shri awardee Urvashi Butalia is a renowned champion of the fight for gender equality, feminism and human rights. She has been a voice for the voiceless and authored several books and has founded Zubaan books in 2003, a feminist publishing house. Saher Motiwala speaks to Ms Butalia about the changing narrative around gender.

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Saher: What can media houses do to change the narrative about Gender and make people aware about gender inclusivity?

Urvashi: The first thing that media houses must do is make the change within their staffing patterns. The reality today is that media offices don’t have an equal atmosphere. The second thing that they must do is change how they look at the content of stories. They should look at a more inclusive way of looking at news. Television channels too need to bring in more gender inclusive panels. They need to start talking to and about all gender identities.

S: Do you think there has been a positive change in terms of gender in the Media industry?

U: If you look at the last 20 to 30 years in the world of media, there definitely has been a positive change. However, the change is still very slight. The media companies are not diverse and stick to hiring the urban population. It is not just a lack of gender diversity; it is neither class diversified, nor caste diversified. Which is why media remains preoccupied with urban issues and largely focused on upper class. Most stories revolve around them. Unless there is some shocking or brutal story

S: What is the advice that you would give to the students to make that much needed change in the society?

U: The first thing to understand is that change is a complex process. There are many things involved in this process. India has seen a drastic socio-economic shift in the past decade. With increasing urbanization, the social demographic in India itself is changing. There has been a strong women’s movement which has been fought especially for violence against women. It has managed some change in terms of the legislation that we have and by creating a collective consciousness that this is a major issue. There is no replacing the battle on the ground to make a change, nevertheless, it has to be supplemented by focus on the inclusion of all genders, castes and classes. We have such a diverse society that in our haste to focus on the urban people We tend to forget, minimise and lose everybody else. So, in our education system and pedagogy needs to be much more thoughtful to about reflecting the multiple layers of our society. Most importantly there must be a political will to make the change. At the moment politics is all about one-upmanship and there is no genuine desire to change. They are only battling against the other parties, retaining power and are interested in filling their pockets. In the process, women and other minorities are ignored. If we don’t make these changes from all these ends the change will never come.

Urvashi Butalia conducted a workshop with Pearl Academy students on unheard voices and Gender equality in India.

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