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“Reservations create a paradigm that is required for women to enter the mainstream” – Vani Tripathi Tikoo

Actor-producer and socio-political activist Vani Tripathi Tikoo talks about the challenges that are faced by women trying to enter politics in India.

By Pragya Narang

Vani Tripathi Tikoo, actor, producer, columnist and socio-political activist from India, believes the solution to achieving a socially just society lies in adopting a bottom-up approach and putting more women at the helm of decision-making.

Vani, who has acted in about 50 plays, over 40 television serials and six films, and founded India’s first state-run drama school Madhya Pradesh Natya Vidyalaya in 2011, defended the need for women’s reservation in public offices while speaking at eShe’s South Asia Union Summit Led by Women.

“Reservation or quota is a word that the West hates, but for women seeking political participation at the grassroot level, it is a socially leveraging situation, as it creates that paradigm that is required for women to enter the mainstream,” she said at a panel titled “Focus on Youth: Empowering Humanistic Political Leaders”, which discussed the need for more women and humanistic leaders who put people before politics.

As a socio-political activist, Vani’s campaigns and outreach programmes have focused on encouraging women’s participation in politics, and in involving youth for finding solutions to challenges India faces.

As former national secretary of the Bharatiya Janata Party, she said she had seen first-hand the challenges of women trying to create a space for themselves in South Asian politics.

She recommended that at the primary level, support should be given to women in terms of tools, education, and capacity-building for women fighting their first election.

“Communicative skills is the biggest challenge apart from finding funds. No political party or leadership institutes who otherwise work on women’s empowerment ever give a thought to the woman who is starting out at the electoral arena, and is facing her first election, and to how difficult it is for her to address an election rally of five-hundred, five-thousand, or even sometimes fifty-thousand people,” said Vani, who is the youngest-ever member of India’s Central Board of Film Certification, or ‘censor board’.

Vani’s co-panelists included Peggy Mohan, linguistic expert, author and educator of Trinidad origin now based in New Delhi; Saba Gul, Pakistani-American technology entrepreneur, investor and feminist activist from New York; and Tara Krishnaswamy, software director, activist, author and co-founder of Political Shakti women’s collective in Bengaluru.

The panel was moderated by Boston-based journalist-filmmaker Beena Sarwar, founder-curator of the peacebuilding coalition South Asia Peace Action Network.

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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