Meri Kahaani — My Story in India
How Storytelling can empower the voiceless
More than ever we are being connected by our shared stories. And the impact these stories have on the collective movement cannot be underscored. With the revelations of Tanushree Data in India — thousands of women have not come forward in India to share their #MeToo Story. Meri Kahanni is a story telling community where women unite and are able to tell stories from all walks of life in India. Women’s March Global had a chance to chance to interview the Meri Kahanni team and talk about the importance of their work.
What do you hope to achieve with your work and how did you start this community?
We want to build a community where women come together and strengthen each other. Stories have the power of community-building which has been denied to women. Most of us trivialise and belittle the experiences of women. Meri Kahaani (translates to ‘My Story’) wants to change that. Our primary goal is to give a voice to the diversity of the women in India. Women deserve to be heard, to be on the platform that is granted to men. The goal is to build a forum that both listens and tells. It is where you lose yourself and find yourself too. We collate, curate and tell extraordinary stories from the everyday lives of women of India.
We’ve grown up around a culture of storytelling, manipulated by men. Where the female perspective is often under represented.
Meri Kahaani wants to change the discourse, by listening to women from every demographic and giving them a platform to represent them. Women do not fit one idea of the Indian femme and their representations in the media need to stop being homogenous. They are diverse, they are different and it’s time all of them get the representation they deserve without any judgement or manipulation of narratives. Meri Kahaani documents and collects these stories without trying to elicit any one kind of response.
What do you see as some of the challenges that women in India face?
The challenges women face in India are the apathy of the youth, desensitised media, sexualisation, underrepresentation in the parliament etc. When we have discussions about gender equality a small percentage of the youth participates. Many even ridicule the movement and its methods. Government policies would be a great help in furthering the rights of women and girls in India. However, it is also the citizens’ responsibility to rally and stand up for women. Education and raising awareness about women’s issues have a major role to play in the movement for gender equality. We need both men and women to participate, take charge and lead the change.
How are you collecting stories?
For reaching out, we have been primarily using our social media platforms. We travel to different towns, cities and villages and invite people to come and share their stories. Most of these stories are video recorded, while some are audio recorded where the person wants to voice her story herself but doesn’t want it to be filmed. We are also collecting written stories that can be mailed to us, or can be sent through our website. We also have a Google form to make the process more accessible. We are trying to be as inclusive as possible with the limited resources we have.
Who specifically are you asking to share stories — or it is open to anyone?
Meri Kahaani is an open call to the women of India, to come up and share their stories. There is no barrier of language, class, caste or background. Many women we have documented had never faced a camera or talked about themselves and their experiences to anyone before. Post the documentation, they have expressed to have felt a burden being lifted off their chest, relieved to have shared their story. We want women to know that there are people waiting to listen to them.
We hope that “Meri Kahaani” becomes an established platform and community for women to voice their struggles and feel represented. We also want to extend our support to key initiatives and movements that are trying to make the world gender equal in an intersectional manner.