Build. Empower. Inspire
By Mansi Shah
On a balmy Saturday in February, the 18th of February to be precise, a few women stalwarts from various walks of life got together to discuss the one thing that binds them together. The city of Mumbai- the place they, grudgingly and sometimes with gay abandon, call home. But that wasn’t the only thing bringing them together. They were to chat, share and discuss ideas about Bombaywaali– the quintessential Bombay girl- who is she and what’s she like. Has Mumbai changed over time? Is it still safe for women? Everything was up for debate and conversation and what a conversation it was.
Behind these power-packed panelists was a name showing them support and serving as a platform for women around the country- SheThePeopleTV. This organization is the brainchild of Shaili Chopra, a woman with many credentials to her name. Shaili wears a lot of hats. She’s an award-winning journalist, an entrepreneur, an author, a columnist and more.
One of the first panel discussions was about Bollywood. How the Indian Film Industry tends to avoid commenting on topics that are sensitive. People in the industry applaud Meryl Streep for her approach and stand but shy away from being this vocal in their own country. Of course, this was a dichotomy, the panel discussed.
“Some people in the movie industry only talk about it when there’s a movie releasing”, says Devita Saraf.
Another panel discussion, which had Elsa D Silva play moderator, talked about Mumbai as a city and what it stands for. Much of the discussion revolved around the youth and their apathy towards causes. Ruben Mascarenhas, who is an active participant to bring the people involved in the Keenan and Reuben case to justice, mentioned that he doesn’t believe the youth is aloof; just that they don’t believe any tangible change will come through.
A discussion by Meghna Pant, Sharin Bhatti, ShikhaMakhan and Supriya Nair touched upon the essence of the event. Whether the city truly and in today’s day still belongs to the Bombaywaali. The opinions were mixed and varied. Up for debate was the judgment pass on single women to having sex in the city. And this made for an extremely fun albeit sometimes volatile evening.
Living Local caught up with Shaili Chopra about her venture, the thought behind it and more. Here are excerpts from the interview.
Tell us about SheThePeople and how it came about.
Shaili: SheThePeople really came about to increase the number of women we call role models. I am a strong believer that you can’t have 10 women represent a population of half a billion women as the only role models in a country like ours. A country that is now more and more focusing on opportunities, diversity as well as putting more women into the workplace so that they can contribute. I have also always felt that India lacked a multi-genre platform to quench the intellectual thirst of any woman who was on her learning curve and that’s the space that SheThePeople TV is trying to fill.
From the entrepreneur to the nanny, SheThePeople is quite diverse.
We have always believed women are great at more than one thing. They are great at multiple things and there is a need for us to bring together people from all walks of life at common places and find new ground of conversation, discourse and plans for the future.
Women’s Day is coming up and the conversation is all about women. How do think this conversation buzz can be sustained?
You know, there are two parts to it. I am a believer in the idea of women’s day, women’s month or any celebration of women. Because the numbers are so skewed, it’s important to put the spotlight on women’s issues and women. They remain the lesser voice. On the other hand, I also think that companies need to go beyond pink balloons and their song and dance about Women’s Day. And be actually committed to push to have a more equal society with equal opportunities for women.
What do you think are the most pressing issues women are facing right now?
I would pick just three – equal pay for equal work, at least one woman in each panel discussion,(panels should have the voice of women) and third, companies should shut the diversity department and every department should be
diverse. If any of these things start happening, I think we would have moved the needle quite a bit.
What does Bombaywaali mean to you?
For me, every city is built by its men and women and I thought one needed to have a Bombaywaali in city like Mumbai because its one city that has always given women that fearless and free voice and the ability to be themselves. For me Bombaywaali is truly that- fearless and fierce.
- Living Local