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“Feminism has no gender; anyone can be a feminist” – Nandita Das

Actor-director Nandita Das believes the roots of gender discrimination lie in childhood, and feminism needs to focus on boys and men.

“In South Asian societies, we genderise so early on,” says Nandita Das, actor, director and human-rights activist, about the causes for the inherent gender discrimination in South Asian societies.

Speaking at eShe’s South Asia Union Summit Led by Women, Das was among 50 eminent women from 13 countries who came together to seek solutions for peace, gender equality, social justice and a unified South Asia.

Das, who has taken up several issues including colourism and domestic violence, said: “In our societies, it is so important to instill in little girls a sense of confidence, freedom, and abandonment. Similarly, the boys have to be taught a sense of responsibility, equality, and respect for girls, but how do we do it when the adults who are teaching them are themselves so deeply prejudiced and discriminatory?”

Das, who has acted in more than 40 feature films in 10 different languages, shared her views on how feminism has focused primarily on women who are victims and shared solutions.

“Feminism has no gender, anyone can be a feminist. The next chapter of feminism should engage with men, and a safe space should be created so that they can express their emotions and a true place of vulnerability is created,” suggested the award-winning actor, who has been twice on the jury of the Cannes Film Festival, and was conferred the ‘Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters’ by the French Government. ⁠ 

Das was part of the introductory session of the summit titled “Building a Platform for Gender Equality” where she and her co-panelist Leslee Udwin, award-winning UK-based filmmaker, educationist and founder of Think Equal, discussed how a gender-equal and a more compassionate world can be created by intervening during the early-education phase, when the seeds of inequality are first sown.

See the highlights of the session here:

South Asia Union Summit Led by Women is a nonprofit initiative by eShe and was timed to coincide with the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi and the UN’s International Day of Non-Violence. The first in a planned series of annual events, it aims to promote women’s leadership and create a space for courageous conversations on peace, gender equality, social justice and a unified South Asia.

The event was supported by WISCOMP – Women in Security, Conflict Management and Peace, an initiative of the Foundation for Universal Responsibility of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. See all the sessions here.

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