Invoking goddess durga this Dasara

Dasara is here! However, this year the power of women is being felt across the country with the #MeToo movement. It’s time all those Durgas to invoke their own shakti to challenge the menace of misogyny. This Dasara, let’s pray that women realise their true potential. In every woman, there’s a gentle loving form of Maa Durga, but when provoked the ever-fierce Kali should awaken to vanquish the evil that hurts her.

“This festive season is all about praying to the divine goddess. It’s sad how many people have double standards of praying to the female deity but failing to respect women around them,” says artist Sravanthi Juluri.

The festival is about women’s empowerment, but while we worship Durga, in reality most women are subjected to exploitation, violence and humiliation. With the #MeToo campaign gaining momentum, it is time to end all kinds of violence against women. “Dasara is the victory of good over evil. This includes ignorance, oppression as much as aggression. Let us celebrate the liberation of thought and voice which is echoing across India, from religious intolerance to LGBT rights to woman empowerment.  We will be a stronger, more democratic society,” says Shobana Kamineni, Executive Vice Chairperson of Apollo Hospitals Enterprise Limited.

Every woman has inner strength, but she requires the will to counter evil, be it in the home, office or in society at large. 

“A big shout out to all the women who have come forward and have boldly expressed the trauma they have gone through,” says TV anchor Suma Kanakala. “Some women are speaking of incidents that happened some years ago; how traumatic it must have been. By speaking, they are paving a better and safer path for the next generation. Let’s  be there for each other.”

The existing paradox of goddesses being worshipped and women being discriminated against in the same land will have a huge impact in the future with this campaign. “The #MeToo movement will definitely act as a deterrence for perpetrators who harass women. It will give women the confidence to fight and the reassurance that they will be heard. It is important that everyone supports this cause. It is not only about women but about equal opportunities at workplaces and the right to be respected,” says Swati Lakra, Inspector General of Police (Women’s Safety) Telangana.

Like goddess Durga who stands alone, separated from her consort Shiva, a woman is capable of having her own identity; (above) Actress Kajol, Tanuja Mukherjee, Tanish Mukherjee, Sharbani Mukherjee and Neetu Chandra during Durga Pooja (file photo)

Navratri is a celebration of woman power, a festival of women, for women and by women. It is a show of women’s strength. Like goddess Durga who stands out majestically alone, separated from her consort Shiva, a woman is capable of having her own identity, separate from a man. “Feminism is not a war on men. Feminism is about ending the war on women,” says Tejuswini Chowdhury, daughter of the firebrand politician Renuka Chowdhury. “Whatever is happening in the microcosm reflects in the macrocosm. While women are being misunderstood, oppressed, used and raped, so is Mother Earth. It is impossible for us to flourish as a species and an ecosystem if one gender does not experience the same sense of safety and respect as the other. There will always be war, misery and disease whenever anything on Earth is out of balance. It is our duty as men and women to tune in to ourselves and have the courage to recognise where we have been blind. To acknowledge that nobody can live in an isolated bubble and eventually the misery will spread to all corners of the Earth. We must have the guts to stand up and speak out against ignorant thoughts, speech and action. We must believe survivors. And if speaking out against something makes us uncomfortable, then that is a sign that we still have to grow and our moral compass still needs to be developed. The change is inside all of us. Once we set the intention to change for the greater good of both genders and our planet, it will automatically reflect in our society with the right people being elected, the right laws being voted in, the right priorities being taught in schools and the right behaviour being rewarded in society. A rapist is not born in isolation. We as a society co-create them out of our misogynistic ways of thinking starting from creating different rules for little boys and girls,” explains Chowdhury.

Our society and culture are at a critical juncture. There is a drastic slide in social, moral and human values. There is a rule of vice over virtue and shameless evil-doing. Men in positions of power often do this. Now that women have started speaking out, we should take it seriously. “The true victory for women is when she is accepted in any and every form. One needs to listen to her and let her speak. It’s definitely very courageous to come out and talk about such incidents. But when we go and talk about rights and freedom to the entire world and come back to the same holes in our home it makes no sense. The change has to start from us, our people, which later turns out to be our society. The movement has started and will definitely bring out names that have been enjoying all the fame,” says artist Priyanka Aley. 

Dr Sasikala Kola, gynaecologist, obstetrician and infertility specialist, says “It is to be expected that women are treated with respect and dignity at home, the workplace and on the road. The mindset of the people, government and lawmakers has to reflect it. The Me Too movement is a step in the right direction. We have to take care of ourselves.”

Women need to be empowered and deserve an environment where they feel safe; safe to work, safe to voice their opinions, and safe to call out perpetrators. “The #MeToo movement is giving women that opportunity; to call out harassment, to make clear that harassment from anybody (on the streets, in the family or in the workplace) will not be tolerated, and to lend other women the voice and confidence to do the same. I strongly support the #MeToo movement. As a young girl and now as a successful business woman, I have faced harassment. While I always had the confidence to reject these untoward advances, going forward I vow to do more to protect other women. Women need to stand up for one another. We need to bring about a change in societal thinking and educate every girl, boy, man and woman to recognise sexual harassment, believe the victims and extend support to be able to deal with it. This will make women stronger,” Ajita Reddy, Director of Hamstech Institute of Fashion and Interior Design.

The #MeToo movement sure did take the world by storm. In the age of social media, strangers felt united on a single platform and found support and strength in numbers. 

“It is amazing how many people, despite age, gender and socio-economic status could raise their voice. Gone are the days where ‘victims’ were hushed by society and feared being judged. This platform brought to light the alarming number of people being abused. For a person who was abused just to know she isn’t alone gives a lot of courage to fight back. It’s not just about rape and sexual exploitation, it’s also about raising your voice and finding your identity, self-respect and the right to be treated with love and equal respect be it at home or at the workplace. We as a family are responsible for the gender discrimination starting from childhood. It is us who assign gender stereotypes in the innocent minds of children when we say, ‘boys don’t cry’ or ‘girls shouldn’t be outspoken.’ The positive change should happen from within the families. Where we treat our children equally and say it is not okay to discriminate. Further more, we see a difference in the way a daughter of the house is treated from the daughter-in-law. These are the stereotypes that need to change. The first teacher to every child is the mother, so it is important for us women to empower ourselves by teaching our boys to respect women,” sums up Sravanthi in conclusion.

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