It’s no secret that India has a gender problem. Sexism has always existed in the country, but the rapid changes in all sections of society have brought the problem to the forefront. Two decades ago, it was norm. Today, women and men are fighting back. This rebellion means increased media exposure, but for Ishita Kapoor it means the opportunity to spread awareness.
For Kapoor, the internet provides the perfect platform to create a space that disrupts the norm. A journalism and mass communication graduate, Kapoor felt she had all the passion and tools to address issues she’d always felt strongly about. And, that is how she began Respect Women, an online website that helps shatter stereotypes, question the status quo and be a force of change.
During her college days, close to graduation, Kapoor met Priyanka Mukherjee and Tarun Bhardwaj, both of whom helped start Respect Women. Mukherjee, an alumni of Jamia (AJK MCRC), was already a well-known photographer and co-founder of WeImages.in. Bhardwaj, on the other hand, was the founder of Fuccha.in, ‘a feminist at heart and freak in reality,’ explains Kapoor.
We caught up with her to find out about her motivation to start Respect Women.
HerStory: Tell us about yourself.
Ishita Kapoor: Girly girl and tomboy! I’ve broken through all such adjectives. I am just a girl, maybe pretty or ugly, bold or coward, but someone who feels free from the sexist thinking.
I belong to an Indian family where unknowingly some sexist thoughts were inculcated in my mind, which I realised at the right stage of my life. Now, I’m working to eradicate them not just from my family, but the whole society.
HS: What influenced you to take this direction?
IK: Many real life stories which I read affected me. Those news articles, blogs relating to a male-dominated world shook me, and forced me to raise my voice and take an initiative to change whatever I can.
Initially, I couldn’t find the right people, time and guidance to start with, which fuelled me more to turn the odds into even.
HS: What were you seeking to resolve with a creation like Respect Women?
IK: The most painful thing was: When I grew up, I saw it happening to me. I could sense what those eve-teasing stories felt in reality. It was then that all those stories that I read in the newspaper terrified me even more. When there is a problem, there is an opportunity disguised as a solution. So, I recognized that opportunity, and planned to resolve the problem. That is when ‘Respect Women’ came in the story.
Respect Women – ‘Get the guts’ is giving voice to women all over India. We make them aware about their rights, which they can use; give them a platform where they can write down their pain, and help them reach out to lakhs of people.
We are in process to tie up with NGOs, too, where we can help our visitors to connect with them to resolve their problems.
HS: Was it hard to choose Respect Women over a regular job?
IK: Respect Women has always been closed to my heart, and nothing can separate me from it, be it a mainstream job or anything. It gives me a chance to understand more people, and change their mind-set, wherever needed.
HS: What do you hope to achieve with Respect Women?
IK: Our main motive is to increase awareness – not just women all over the world, but men, too – about equality and gender justice. We are functioning to give them a platform to raise their voice.
HS: How do plan to you monetise this initiative?
IK: Since, our traffic has increased, we get many offers for advertising banners, but we’ll only allow those that’ll sync with our objective.
HS: What’s the one advice you’d like to share with readers?
IK: We just want everyone to think about the situation of women in India, and to take some steps. There have been enough talks, but it’s time for action now!
Respect Women hopes to infuse some sense of gender equality and equity in India. There are numerous blogs, YouTube channels, websites and organisations working towards a better world for women, and Kapoor doesn’t see them as competition, but co-workers working towards a common social goal.
For Respect Women, it’s one battle at a time…