It’s a women’s world: Dedicated activists who are raising awareness of social issues

Posted on 8 March 2012


By Monalisa Das and Harsha Chawla UPDATED: 02:30 GMT, 8 March 2012

The power of blogging to draw attention to social issues became apparent some years ago, when the blog, Blank Noise, started by Jasmeen Patheja succeeded in raising awareness about street sexual harassment.

A student of the Srishti School of Art Design and Technology in Bangalore, Patheja decided to post pictures of the perpetrator every time she was harassed.

This move gave rise to many public campaigns by her such as Blank Noise Blogathon, I Never Asked For It, Y R U Looking At Me and Action Heroes.

Today, this volunteer-led project has four blogs, two Facebook groups, a YouTube channel and a Twitter account.

More recently, the Pink Chaddi campaign on Facebook was highly successful in raising people’s hackles against the moral policing being faced by women.

Both campaigns serve as examples of new age activism that has moved from street demonstrations to posting tweets, blogs and scraps on different social issues.

This unique kind of activism is quick to reach out to different groups of people and effective in facilitating real social changes.


It was a single note posted on facebook that turned into a full-fledged campaign against eve teasers in Delhi’s metro. Please Mend the Gap is a volunteer-led initiative to promote gender equality in public spaces, the brainchild of 26-year-old Rosalyn D’mello.

A writer by profession, Rosalyn was well aware of the perils of living alone in the city, especially while commuting in public transport.

She was deeply shaken when a female friend of hers was harassed by a drunk man while travelling in Delhi Metro a year ago.

 Kamayani Bali Mahabal of Kracktivism, Jasmeen Patheja of Blank Noise Project (pictured left) and Rosalyn D’mello of Please Mend the Gap (pictured right)

‘The fact that the incident took place at 10:30 am, when metros are jam packed with working professionals and students and yet no one came out to support my friend was shocking,’ she says.

She immediately wrote a note titled ‘Surviving Men’ on her facebook page that went viral and triggered a big debate online.

Following the huge response, Rosalyn organised a meeting of likeminded people within a week and this initiated Please Mend the Gap with four other members.

The first step taken by the team was to file an online petition requesting the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) and the Delhi government to implement measures for making Delhi Metro safer for women passengers.

In the last one year the group has organised four flash mobs in metros across the city, sensitising commuters about gender equality issues.

The nature of flash mobs has ranged from silent stand-ups at metro stations to mock sessions within the metros. Interestingly, these have incited the interest of a lot of male passengers too.

‘In 2010, the DMRC started a special coach for women which hasn’t been taken in the right spirit and has rather built animosity among commuters,’ says Rosalyn.

Her team is trying to bridge this gap. A booklet that will serve as a guide for women facing danger is also in the offing.

Their page on facebook has almost 1,200 followers and has turned into a public forum for discussions.

‘Almost everyday we have a new post on the wall that elicits serious discussions on gender issues,’ says Rosalyn who swears by the famous quote:

Feminism is the radical notion that women are people.


Chandni Parekh, creator of Fund-A-Cause,
has used the internet to connect
individuals and organisations with useful
information and resources since 2006

She has become the go-to person for anything related to NGOs and social issues on Twitter. Twentyeight- year-old Chandni Parekh tweets for a meaningful purpose.

Her online initiative, Fund-A-Cause, is one of its kind Twitter accounts that helps individuals and NGOs seeking funds connect with the concerned organisations.

‘Many people have received substantial opportunities through one forwarded email or tweet that was sent to them!’ says Chandni, a Mumbai-based social psychologist, sexuality educator and NGO consultant.

Started in April 2009, Fund-ACause is a one-stop shop to know what people in India are seeking and offering money for, and how.

Right from education, medical treatments to organising events, Chandni tweets about different concerns.

Last month itself, Chandni facilitated the donation of material worth Rs 15 lakhs to NGOs across India through her tweets.

Since 2006, Chandni has used the power of the internet to connect individuals and organisations with useful information and resources.

‘I started by posting information on interesting initiatives, events, articles, jobs, volunteers, etc on Karmayog-an e-group on social and civic issues.

Gradually I started actively contributing to several other egroups of creative professionals, feminists, NGOs, documentary filmmakers, mental health professionals, etc, thus enabling people to avail opportunities and resources for free,’ recalls Chandni.

As an active member of these e-groups, Chandni started receiving mails from NGOs and individuals seeking financial aid. ‘Many NGOs didn’t have online presence or access to the correct resources,’ she recalls.

This gave Chandni the idea of offering them a face and creating an open source of information through Twitter. Within a few months of tweeting, Chandni started a blog on Fund-A-Cause and later created a page on facebook as well.

Besides this, Chandni is the founder-member of Vikalp@Prithvi that organises free screenings of documentaries and also works with Samhita Social Ventures.


Mumbai- based activist-blogger Kamayani

Recently filmmaker Shyam Benegal was in news for pulling out from the Jury of Vedanta Film Festival after receiving a heartfelt letter.

The letter, which documented in detail the human rights violations of tribals by corporate mining giant Vedanta, was written by Mumbai- based activist-blogger Kamayani Bali Mahabal. Kamayani, who has been involved in grassroot activism and is associated with various movements for many years, recently ventured into ‘Kracktivism’, a term coined by her for activism which bridges the gap between online and offline activism.

‘In the last four years I have made a good use of social media like facebook and blog to reach out to different sort of people.

It has helped in galvanising support from civil society for issues that lacked mass appeal,’ says 38-year-old Kamayani.

She adds, ‘The Free Dr Binayak Sen campaign is an ideal example of Kracktivism wherein the offline protests and online petitions complemented and supplemented each other to build into an international campaign for the release of Dr Binayak Sen.’

Nowadays, she is an active member at various organisations such as Feminist and Technology and Women Aloud Videoblogging for Empowerment.

Kamayani works closely with issues closer to heart, which are gender health and human right issues and causes which are least talked about.

‘I don’t like to run parallel campaigns. If somebody is already working towards an issue I would support and strengthen it but would focus on things which remain ignored. That’s the reason I work on issues such as NPR and UID projects, rights of disabled people and sex workers,’ says Kamayani.

Kamayani, who has an enviable list of degrees to her credit, is the authority on human right violations.

She is the founder member of human rights organisation ‘AHSAAS’ involved in educating people in the field of human rights. Kamayani started her career as a clinical psychologist and within a few years moved to mainstream journalism. Finding the newspaper job boring, she left it to practise law in a high court.

Kamayani feels that social media has the power to awaken civil society and garnering support for lesser-known causes. She recalls how people who had no inkling about human rights had turned up at the protests to free Dr Binayak Sen after reading about her facebook campaign.

‘Social media has a mass appeal. It opens up avenues to different kind of people. People sitting in far flung areas of India read about issues I raise and show solidarity and sometimes even lend help.

‘This complement the work I do offline,’ says Kamayani, who feels new-generation bloggers writing on issues of public importance try to complement their work with offline activism.