Guest blog by Anshul Tewari (@anshul_tewari) and Lipi Mehta (@lipi_meh) of @YouthKiAwaaz
Twitter has been at the epicentre of one of the most important conversations all of last year - the global #metoo movement against sexual harassment, which empowered women (and men) to speak up and show support. From Hollywood to universities, young women and men took to Twitter and stormed the internet with conversations that made thousands of people face an uncomfortable reality, and millions of people join in the movement. Collaborating with Twitter's #PositionOfStrength program gave @YouthKiAwaaz (YKA) the opportunity to contextualise this conversation, make it more inclusive and amplify it to a large audience - encouraging many more to speak up.
The sixth edition of the #PositionOfStrength series, held on the eve of Women's Day 2018 by Twitter and YKA took this conversation forward. The event started with a welcome by Mahima Kaul @misskaul, Head of Policy at @TwitterIndia and Anshul Tewari @anshul_tewari, Founder, YouthKiAwaaz, and the launch of the Hindi hashtag, #हमसेहैहिम्मत, to encourage millions of people who are more comfortable with speaking in Hindi to use Twitter and add to the ongoing conversation around making online and offline spaces safer and more inclusive. The forum then saw power packed two panels, with fiery speakers from across the board, including journalists Barkha Dutt @BDUTT and Nistula Hebbar @nistula, MP Meenakshi Lekhi @M_Lekhi, DCP Vijayanta Goyal @vijayantagoyal, NCDHR’s Anju Singh @DalitAwaz and Beena Pallical @sitara1, historian Rana Safvi @iamrana, SheThePeople TV Founder Shaili Chopra @shailichopra, and talk show host Richa Anirudh @richaanirudh.
Actor Aahana Kumra @AahanaKumra and spoken word poet Sabika Abbas Naqvi @sabikanaqvi joined the conversation, sharing powerful personal and cultural narratives of why women need to speak up - and why those who try to silence them need to step aside.
Here’s a quick look at the power-packed event:
We are not naming our Weinsteins because something is still stopping us culturally.
In the first session, an insightful conversation on India’s journey from Nirbhaya to #MeToo started a discussion on the culture of shame and silence in India, why women don’t report and how policymakers can strongly address the rampant occurence of sexual violence and harassment.
What does lady oriented mean? Does it mean that we can speak about sexuality and be banned in India?
Firebrand actor Aahana Kumra took the stage and shared her experience of ‘Lipstick Under My Burkha’ being banned for being “lady oriented”, and young people rallying to fight this regressive stand. She boldly spoke out against a culture that shames a woman for being honest and open about her sexuality, and urged Indian audiences to break the silence on sex and taboos around it.
Hum log apni caste aur gender ko alag karke nahin dekh sakte, kyunki hamare paas woh privilege nahin hai.” (हम लोग अपनी जाति और जेंडर को अलग करके नहीं देख सकते, क्यूंकि हमारे पास वह प्रिविलेज नहीं है)
In a fiery panel on the intersection between caste, gender, religion, geography and violence, Dalit rights activists Anju Singh and Beena Pallical spoke about recognising how crimes against Dalits are directly connected with caste. Rana Safvi and Shaili Chopra re-emphasized how the battle against gender inequality begins at home.
Ki saare jahan ko hami se hai himmat / Ye himmat hami se, hamari hai himmat / Nahi koi meri zimmadari ye himmat / Zaroori nahi hum dikhaye ye himmat…
To celebrate the launch of the Hindi hashtag, #हमसेहैहिम्मत, poet Sabika Naqvi performed a moving, powerful work on recognising the collective strength of speaking up. All the speakers also came together to launch the hashtag offline - a first in India!
Colin Crowell (@colincrowell), VP and Global Head of Policy at Twitter also addressed the event, remarking at how #PositionOfStrength and the conversations at this forum in India have evolved over the years.
The event was a reminder of how young people in India are not apathetic and ignorant when it comes to creating safer and more inclusive spaces. From the overwhelming response we received right from the registrations stage, it is evident that young people are restless for change, and looking forward to a more equitable society. This change is possible, and it’s on us to make it happen. After all, #हमसेहैहिम्मत!
The full list of #PositionOfStrength speakers from India over the past six editions are available here: https://twitter.com/TwitterIndia/lists/positionofstrength/members