Why We Need #ProjectOnHerOwn

I spoke about the need for #ProjectOnHerOwn at the Teach for India Sabha, last Saturday. My talk focused on the need for women to tell their stories. We all know women who are achievers and rebels, and those who have been harassed and taken for granted. We are those women. Then why do we shy away from sharing our story? Our stories are so similar yet different. And, they all matter. Below is the transcript of my talk.

I am Anjana. Today, I will tell you my story. 

Growing up, I was an obedient child. But once I realised that I didn’t really want to become a doctor or an engineer, everyone started calling me a rebel.

I chose to study Journalism and English in college. Soon, it was clear that I was not built for Journalism. I am not the most curious cookie in the box. For years, I was a content creator by day and wrote poems and stories by night. I would rarely share these with anyone. Finally, in 2016, I decided to give writing a try. I took a year off and wrote 10 short stories. Two of them have been published since. And 4 of them have been used in #ProjectOnHerOwn. 

I have never been a social person. I am happier being lost in my own thoughts than interacting with people. But today, I work at Indian Institute for Human Settlements in Sadashivanagar and I anchor a monthly event there called Public Texts, where we bring authors to talk about their work. I find these two to be huge achievements in my personal journey.

Moving on to less happier things, like all women I know, I have been harassed too. I’ve had my breasts pinched in the streets. Men have rubbed up against me in buses. I’ve worked with male colleagues who’ve made me uncomfortable. But I’ve also stopped an overnight bus in the dead of the night once and confronted my harasser while travelling alone. 

I’ve also been taken for granted. Right after college, I took two years off to care for my grandfather. The least I could do for my grandparents was to be by their side when their faculties faded. In the beginning I got a lot of flack for not focussing on my career. But these same detractors soon began to take me for granted. I was there 24×7, a primary caregiver, with no one to change hands with me. I am glad I spent time with him while I could, but being taken for granted was a frustrating experience. That is also my story.

These are the stories that make up #ProjectOnHerOwn. None of them are heroic. We have all experienced some version of these highs and lows in our lifetime. If not, we have at least seen and heard of the women around us experience these stories. These stories are important. All of them, however similar they are to each other, matter. It is not often that women’s stories are told. And when they are told, they are about women achieving extraordinary things like Jhansi Rani or Kalpana Chawla. We hope to create a space for relatable stories of everyday women.  

We are #ProjectOnHerOwn, an IVR-based art project done as part of Gender Bender Festival 2019. Call 080 6608 4304 number, listen to her story and share your story with us!

I would like to leave you with a story that was shared earlier this week at one of the #ProjectOnHerOwn focus group discussions. A lady who works at an NGO as a facilitator narrated how she was someone who could not talk to people. She would never leave the house alone. She would never eat at a hotel. And since she got this job, she has learnt to ride a bike, she facilitates conversations about financial independence in 100 villages, travels alone, eats out and is confident enough to talk to a crowd of people. It made me realise how big a deal eating at a hotel is to someone. If I hadn’t heard a first hand account of it from her, I would have thought, what’s the big deal in eating out? For me, that’s the point of the project. You never know how your story will affect another person. And my hope for the project is that it becomes a space to listen to and to share everyday stories of women.

Once again, We are Project On Her Own, the poster has all the details. Call this number to participate. If you have questions, find us after the Sabha.