You can’t have missed some of the thought-provoking posts by the start-up Feminism in India; set up and run by a group of young feminists. The founder Japleen Pasricha speaks to SheThePeople.TV about being young, driven and aspiring to change the conversation, when it comes to Feminism in India, and her start-up journey. Not to mention some of the viewers who land up on the site, slightly confused because of what they’ve been trying to google. No laughing matter, this, a group that emphasises the need to amplify the voices of women and marginalised communities, the best way they know how — through art and tech!
1) What led you to set up Feminism in India?
I was always a feminist, even when I didn’t know what the word meant. I was rebellious kid and was constantly told , I’m too cool/bold for a girl. Something that I took pride in. However, although the sentiment was always there, I started reading about feminism quite late. My academic education is not Women’s or Gender Studies, contrary to popular belief, hence when I googled Feminism, I mostly found White Feminism available readily in various forms of popular culture. Although there are lots of books and academic writing on Indian feminism, I found it missing in the popular culture on the internet in an easy and fun manner and easily accessible to all.
This is what gave birth to Feminism in India. We wanted to be and are an intersectional feminist platform using digital tools to drive the point home. We are a young feminist group who practice intersectional feminism and amplify the voices of women and marginalized communities using tools of art, culture, new media, technology and community.
We are a young feminist group who practice intersectional feminism and amplify the voices of women and marginalized communities using tools of art, culture, new media, technology and community.
2) What have been some of the most interesting anecdotes along the way, that you can share?
We started in August 2014 and by the end of the year within five months, we were able to crowdsource and publish 75 stories from 40 writers. (FII counts over 80 writers now).
We also successfully organised and executed our first digital campaign in 2014 collecting survivor stories in Nov-Dec 2014 which later won a prestigious media award in March 2016. One of the success stories during the campaign was that it made one survivor lift the veil of shame and realise it was not her fault, it never was. She was earlier hesitant in talking about her experience, but when she saw other survivor stories pouring in, it gave her the courage to write about it.
We are less than 2 years old and have received a lot of recognition. We received our first award, the Manthan Award – in December 2015 – which recognises social innovations for social good. I also represented Feminism in India at RightsCon 2016 – a global conference on tech and human rights – and talked about our work with Gender, Media and ICTs.
In collaboration with Freedom House, a non-profit organisation based in the US, we are also conducting a research on online violence against women in India from 2015-2016. This research report will be part of the larger Freedom on the Net report 2016 by Freedom House and India country researcher.
3) Take us through some of the best, most surprising, and worst reactions to stories published on your site?
One of the most hilarious yet sad experience has been tracking keywords from our weekly metrics sheet. We get a lot of sex related keywords wherein people who are looking for porn/erotic stories but instead turn up on our site because we have personal narratives of sexual violence. Not saying people shouldn’t search or watch porn, but a lot of these keywords contain incest, rape, molestation, basically non-consensual sex (read rape) stories. Otherwise, we have a fairly positive reactions to our stories, some our loved so much that they have been read more than twenty-thousand times. Given we are super new with zero budget, let alone marketing and publicity, these are great stats for us.
4) Do you think that there’s a lot more acceptance (at least in urban India today) about the need to discuss equality, equity — Has the gender rights movement come of age in India? Or are we still talking mainly of a privileged elite?
Yes, I feel post 2012 gender has come under media’s limelight and sexual violence, especially rape has become a dinner table topic at least in middle and upper-middle classes. Re acceptance of feminism concerns, it is as old as history of the women’s movement starting with suffrage till now, some will hate, some will love and some will try to engage.
We are slowly moving from our small privileged circle and talking about and to dalit activists, advasi women, feminist activists in Kashmir, the North-East, in rural areas, trans* people, women with disabilities among others. However, we have a long way to go and intersectionality is the way forward.
5) What are some of the challenges you’ve faced as a start-up? Any lessons learned along the way?
Our biggest challenge is sustainability. A lot of people do not take us seriously, think digital activism is not real activism and that because we are a group of young feminists mostly under 30, we do not know what we are talking about or doing.
A lot of people do not take us seriously, think digital activism is not real activism and that because we are a group of young feminists mostly under 30, we do not know what we are talking about or doing
We are raising funding as well as developing revenue models in terms of campaigns, trainings, workshops and research work to sustain ourselves. It’s a long and tiring way, but one that we will take no matter what and emerge victorious. I’m positive 🙂