Celebrating Progress, Envisioning Change – What an event!
On December 16th, Badal Ja! held our third Small Steps event, “Tribute to Nirbhaya: Celebrating Progress, Envisioning Change.” Held on the 2nd anniversary of the Delhi gangrape and murder, this commemoration forced us to remember the acts of violence, both big and small, that women and men are subjected to across South Asia.
At the same time, we wanted to celebrate this moment as a hugely important catalyst for change around gender justice. We wanted to honor the fact that, across the country, citizens of all stripes started to speak up about the realities of gender violence and to take concrete steps for a new reality. And we wanted to celebrate all the work that’s been done – by activists, college students, and ordinary citizens, in the Supreme Court, on the streets, and homes – to create a more gender-equal India.
Our intention was to celebrate fearlessness and social change through art, conversation, and community! We met in a corner of the park at Dadar Chowpatty as the sun set and quickly set about transforming the space. We hung dupattas, pants, and plain old kapde along the fence, where they caught in the wind like sails.
One surface became a “Wall of gratitude” – rows of sticky notes where we all wrote ‘thank yous’ to all those who have helped us feel safe and empowered. We thanked female cops for not just keeping us safe, but also changing the gender profile of “the police.” We thanked rickshaw wallahs who have driven us home late at night and insisted on getting us to our doorsteps. And we expressed gratitude to family members – parents, siblings, elders – who have supported us exploring the city.
As the sky turned dark and more people assembled, we started by introducing ourselves and saying why each of us had come. After singing a song, we broke up into groups to discuss the social changes we have seen over the last two years. With the recognition that much work remains to be done, however, we also wanted to dream big for the future: what are some of the amazing changes we want to see in India in years to come?
With this question in mind, we wrote “Headlines for the Future”:
“Delhi Voted Safest City in the World”
“70% of Indian Men Consider Themselves Feminists”
“Men Prefer Women who do not Prefer Kitchen”
“Nam Diya, toh Jaan Bhi Do”
“Free Love Spreads Across India”
“Dual Income Families the Norm in India”
We closed with an awesome movement session led by dance movement therapist extraordinaire Natasha Agrawal. Under Natasha’s guidance, we shook our inhibitions out, moved past each other with the funniest of actions, and used the twin combination of movement and stillness to tap into our inner intuition. As the guard blew his whistle to kick us out (1.5 hours before the park was supposed to close!), we silently articulated the small step that each of us will take in the days and months to come to ensure that our magnificently imagined future can slowly but surely become a reality.