Priyanka Chaturvedi, the Convenor Communication and National Spokesperson of the Indian National Congress, was in conversation with SheThePeople.TV’s Ideas Editor Kiran Manral for this month’s edition of Bombaywaali at Fun Republic Social. It was a full house!

Read on to know about her journey into Indian politics, the sexism female politicians face and her learnings along the way.

From home to the corporate sector and finally into politics

The minute Priyanka Chaturvedi turned 30, she realised she wished to contribute more to society, and that was when life took a turn from the routine. She wanted fulfilment and to make a change. What acted as a catalyst was the 26/11 terror attack. Kiran Manral had started India Helps and Priyanka thought that was the least she could do to help the families, who had lost their loved ones, to build their lives back. That was a defining moment for her. She then joined the Prayas Charitable Trust. Their street school project which started out with 6 kids now has 400 kids across 4 schools.

Politics didn’t happen as an extension of what Priyanka was doing. But Albeit cynical at first, she started with the Youth Congress (as a person from a non-political background) and earned the opportunity to represent the party nationally, and grew to where she currently is today.

On Social Media as an impetus to being a Political Figure

She is a shy public speaker and had never imagined that she would be speaking at public rallies and addressing over 10,000 people. But writing came more easily to Priyanka and she found Twitter to be an important medium where she could speak out. At that point in time, what Priyanka found to be lucky was that the Congress party wasn’t active on social media and was trying to find its own people who were active on social media. That was where she came in.

On Social Media Trolling

Priyanka thinks that trolling is violence. When you continue to speak in a certain language and address a woman in a certain way, it may not be physical violence but it is mental violence, and this has a massive impact. When she joined Twitter and became slightly more proactive in the political field, her very first tweet was about Nirbhaya. The best she thought she could do then – was to reach out. People were angry but couldn’t speak to anybody from the government. They thought it easier to troll Priyanka on the basis of her being a congresswoman and they said terrible things.

She wanted to leave Twitter but realised then that silencing herself would not add any further value or do justice.

She wanted to leave Twitter but realised then that silencing herself would not add any further value or do justice. And people definitely wouldn’t shut up. She decided to take her trolls head-on. The efforts of the trolls only add to sharpen her replies to them. Priyanka always speaks out no matter who or what it is, maintaining that she wouldn’t be able to do justice to her gender otherwise.

On Femininity, Sexism and Politics

Priyanka is proud of the fact that she is feminine. She looks up to political figures such as Jayalalitha and Mayawati who had to carve their space in a time when politics wasn’t the best to women. To add to this, they didn’t come from a political family either. For women, it does become a challenge to handle the male gaze, behaviour and sexism that comes across.

Since 2012, with a lot of political mass movements, many women are coming forward and they are unapologetic about how they look, what they wear, what they seek and where they wish to see themselves. She sees this as a very positive change. She thinks that sensitisation is the biggest contribution to the nation and that women bring that sensitivity to politics. “We bring in strength and we never give up. It’s time for us to be heard,” she says.

She thinks that sensitisation is the biggest contribution to the nation and that women bring that sensitivity to politics.

On being a working mother

Priyanka Chaturvedi thinks that women are always apologetic about seeking to get ahead. She agrees with Indra Nooyi – women can’t have it all. However, she has a very positive family and her children support what she does. Priyanka’s son told her, “So Mamma, it’s not just about changing or grooming the two of us but the whole entire nation.”

On the political path for women

Priyanka Chaturvedi encourages women to join politics, saying that it’s a golden moment for women to participate in politics. It’s important to bear in mind that when you choose politics, you must not look for immediate gain – come with the intent of contributing to the organisation before you seek something from it.

Your competence will be tested at all times and you have to be on guard at all times. You could be intentionally or unintentionally overlooked. You will have to make yourself be heard over the din.

 

Message to women

Let your passion drive you. Initially, it may look like it’s a losing battle but your will to give up must not dominate your decision making. 

We women have been born into the right gender at the right time, and we can participate in and contribute to the political system.

On being a Bombaywaali

“A lot of who I am is because of the city I have grown up and studied in. It helps me keep my sense of balance in place. That is the crux of the spirit and idea of Mumbai. I feel an immense sense of pride in being a Bombaywaali,” says Priyanka.

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