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‘We have to be the change we wish to see’: Priya Vardarajan

Over the passage of time, this platform became a medium for women, across all barriers, to retrospect, reflect and introspect, and share their experiences.

SNS | New Delhi | Updated :

Q 1. Behind every initiative, there is a motivating factor. What was yours behind Durga?

I have always felt for the cause of equality, and more so for the cause of women, which found expression in a blog I started titled I AM EVERY WOMAN.

Over the passage of time, this platform became a medium for women, across all barriers, to retrospect, reflect and introspect, and share their experiences. Gradually, this metamorphosed into a family, who not only met online but also offline, strengthening the bond. This platform started way back in 2008-9, also served as a way of helping one another in case of any problems.

However, the overarching challenges remained thanks to patriarchy in society that kept persisting. This family stood through thick and thin with one another and served as the basis for Durga as an initiative.

Q 2. According to you, what are the biggest challenges that women face in today’s time and age?

There are many; what is needed is behavioural change, and though this takes time, it is important for it to happen in order to encourage long-term, positive and sustainable change. So, the focus should shift from: “The woman must have been at fault!” to “Why did the man behave the way he did?”

This paradigm shift can only be facilitated by parents from childhood onwards, as an integral part of parenting and learning. Unless this is a part of values, this change will not be possible.

Q 3. What have been the major milestones achieved by Durga?

The genesis of Durga stemmed from the need to empower women to reclaim their right — the right to be who they essentially are, with due respect to their identity, as we believe that womanhood is to be loved, and not feared.

At Durga, our mission is: “Safety, for all, against sexual harassment in any form.” We listen. We act. We enable change. Behavioural change. Change that begins with the self. Durga works on equipping all to understand behaviour to deter sexual harassment in public spaces. We do this through theatre-based workshops for both men and women in schools, colleges, workspaces and in communities.

Till date 9500 plus DURGAs have been empowered. Besides this, we have initiated 120 plus DARES, who stand up and act in a situation where a woman’s safety is being comprised. So, a large part of our work spans diverse target audiences, including children and youth.

Q 4. How do you envisage the way forward with Durga?

We have been striving to spread the word, across India, through awareness, which is the basic tool that facilitates an empowered society. There is still a lot that needs to be done, and we realize that.

However, the crux lies in facilitating a Domino Effect through mobilization and collaboration. This will help prevent voices from being stifled, encouraging justice, equality and equity. It will take time, but there has to be a beginning sometime, somewhere.

Right now, we are excitedly preparing for the Youth Summit that will be taking place soon. This summit is one of its first kind of virtual summits, which engages with youth on subject matters that impact them from a personal and collective perspective. The summit aims to deepen conversations around these subjects, with active citizenship at the fore and through the lens of gender equity.

Q 5. Any message you would like to share with our readers?

The message is clear – we have to be the change we wish to see; there is no point waiting for that change to happen; every individual, at his/her own level, has to take up the cause with passion and sincerity; another important point is the awareness that begins at an early stage, and can go a long way in making a difference. So, stand-up, raise your voice against injustice anywhere and make the cause of changing your objective.