When It Just Clicks: Spotlight on Deepika Passi.
Young Delhi filmmaker, photographer, and feminist, Deepika laughs when she describes the way she used to think about photography. “I thought, what’s the big deal about cameras? It’s just a click and then the photo is done.” That was four years ago. Deepika has since completed nearly all four levels of Feminist Approach to Technology (FAT)’s Young Women’s Leadership Program. “I came to FAT to learn computers and maybe get a job somewhere after that,” she says. “But now my dream is to be a photographer.”
As far as we are concerned, dream accomplished.
In 2013, Deepika used her photography and videography skills to highlight issues facing Indian girls. Collaborating with three other young women, Deepika wanted to make a film about violence against women. But the subject just seemed so big. Then one of her co-creators pointed out that she fears violence every time she goes to the community toilets. And that was the spark for the 27-minute film Apna Haq, “Our Rights.” Deepika says, “We just started writing down our issues, and it became the script.”
The film follows four girls who live in a Delhi slum where 100 households share four toilets. With Deepika behind the video camera and snapping stills of the girls’ day-to-day lives, the film takes the audience inside and around the toilets by the railroad tracks. The girls talk about how they are scared to go to the toilet at night. There are no lights. No doors. The girls fear harassment and rape. Taking care of yourself when you have your period is practically impossible.
Feminist Approach to Technology, a partner of The MATCH Fund, recently published Apna Haq and an accompanying book of Deepika’s photographs to raise awareness about this issue. And Deepika? She has since completed a second short film about early forced marriage in India. Nothing will stop her from achieving her dreams. Not even the fact that she may have already achieved them.
We all stand our ground in big and small ways every day. Maybe it was speaking up, even when it seemed like no one would listen. Maybe it was standing up for a friend or defending a complete stranger.
One woman did just that.
The MATCH Fund’s partner Women’s Awareness Centre Nepal (WACN) is a network of credit and savings cooperatives for women in Nepal’s Kavre district. Thanks to the cooperative, women are able to purchase gardening supplies or pay their children’s school fees. Dhana, a co-op member at WACN, stood her ground in a big way.
Just outside the big city, Nepal’s Kavre district is lush and green for miles. It is mustard season now, so the fields are full of yellow flowers. The cabbages and potatoes are nearly ready for harvest. The landscape is dotted with ducks and goats. The one road leading out of Kathmandu rises steadily up into the foothills. The beauty is striking. But so is the poverty.
And something else sticks out: the women. In a country where only 19% of women own land, women are, somehow, the only people working in the fields. They are the ones steering the goats along the road. They are the ones hauling the produce in thick straw baskets secured to their foreheads. They are the ones picking the mustard flowers and crushing the seeds into cooking oil.
It is not an easy life for these women. In addition to bearing the brunt of the agricultural labour, nearly half of Nepal’s rural women experience physical violence in their lifetime.
That’s why Dhana and the other women of her WACN cooperative stick together. In their village surrounded by mustard fields, they know each other’s stories, they cheer on each other’s entrepreneurial projects, and they make tough decisions—together—about how to offer support during a crisis.
One day, Dhana saw a fellow member of her cooperative being beaten by her drunken husband. Dhana rushed in to protect her, and the beating stopped. But it wasn’t over.
A few days later, Dhana was on her way to work when the man came after her. He beat Dhana for standing up for her friend. He told Dhana, “you are a woman. If I slap you, what can you possibly do?”
So Dhana showed him what she could do.
She gathered all thirty of her fellow cooperative members by her side. Every single woman of the cooperative walked with her to the police station. As one voice, they demanded justice for both Dhana and her friend. They stood their ground. They did not back down. And what could the police possibly do faced with thirty angry women?
They jailed the man for 45 days.
Jay Mulucha can end discrimination in five words.
“It all begins with you,” says the Executive Director of FEM Alliance. “The activism, advocacy and sensitization that we have done as LGBT people in Uganda is tremendous and has yielded some good results. Through this work, some homophobic and transphobic people changed their attitudes towards us. This is an achievement. Last year, LGBT organizations feared to operate because of the Anti-Homosexuality Act. When it was nullified, the situation became a bit calmer, although bills and laws affecting our work are coming up all the time. We still have a lot of work to do and a long way to go because attacks on us are still ongoing. We, as a community, are constantly under attack. But with more work done, I think we will slowly be able to change negative attitudes, behaviours, policies, and patterns towards LGBT people.” In the meantime, Jay and his team have created an underground network, designed to protect Uganda’s most marginalized people. The work is discrete and the obstacles are great, but one thing is certain: change is on its way.
At age 19, Akili Dada’s Michelle Buyaki tells it like it is.
“One does not have to be great to start, but one has to start to be great. With this in mind, I do not have to wait until I’m ‘old enough’ to start making a difference. Leadership for me is about service. It’s about walking the talk and being a role model. I am a Young Change Maker with Akili Dada. [Through Akili Dada,] I have volunteered as a teacher in a rehabilitation centre for girls, where we started a book club to improve the girls’ reading skills.
I am also an aeronautical engineering student at the Technical University of Kenya. Being a leader and a young woman in a highly male dominated field often puts me at loggerheads with those who hold on to the notion that leadership is purely a man’s world. Having braved the storms that come with being a woman in a patriarchal society, I mentor young women and encourage them not to be intimidated. Our communities have responded very positively. Young people are more empowered and more aware of the opportunities they can create for themselves.”
Blandine Umuziranenge may be young, but don’t let that fool you. She’s not rich and famous. But she is a girl with a dream.
Coming from a large family in Rwanda, Blandine knows first hand that the odds are stacked against mothers and babies in her country. In fact, a baby girl born in Rwanda today is 8 times more likely to die at birth than a baby girl born in Canada.
Blandine wanted to give Rwandan babies and their mothers a fighting chance, and Akili Dada in Kenya let her do just that.
Akili Dada, which translates as “Brain Sister,” is a leadership incubator, providing girls with scholarships and seed grants to dream big. Their programs offer workshops, one-on-one mentoring, and opportunities for girls to create change in their communities. With a grant from The MATCH Fund this year, Akili Dada provided a number of seed grants to girls to put their dreams into action. Blandine was one of those girls.
As an Akili Dada Fellow, Blandine launched a magazine for pregnant Rwandan women, some as young as 15 years old. The magazine is colourful, written in Kinyarwanda, and full of tips for a safe pregnancy. But Blandine knew that wasn’t enough.
So, to reach even more women, Blandine built a cell phone app to help mothers find a nearby doctor and to alert emergency services in a crisis. The app also helps women during their pregnancies by sending advice and alerts related to their pregnancy. The result? Women have information at their fingertips, which makes for healthy pregnancies and healthy babies.
Blandine’s app and her magazine have reached 85,000 women so far. And, as for Blandine herself, she says, “There is not a star in heaven I can’t reach because I believe in myself and know what I want to achieve.”