On January 21st, 2017, an estimated 4.6 million Americans participated in what was intended to be the Women’s March on Washington, but had overwhelming response across the country. The same weekend, in India, the #IWillGoOut movement also made waves.
The #IWillGoOut movement was a reaction to mass molestations that occurred during a New Year’s Eve celebration in Bengaluru, Karnataka. Amidst a large crowd celebrating the new year, many women were violently molested. Due to the crowd and subsequent chaos, many women couldn’t even identify their attackers, and some were molested multiple times. In response to this, the Samajwadi Party leader, Abu Azmi, stated:
If my sister or daughter stays out beyond sunset celebrating December 31 with a man who isn’t their husband or brother, that’s not right.
Essentially, Azmi placed the blame on the women who were just trying to celebrate the new year. He went on to discuss how women, through their clothing choices, deliberately attract men:
If there’s gasoline, there will be fire. If there’s spilt sugar, ants will gravitate towards it for sure.
As a result, the #IWillGoOut movement sparked on social media and, on January 21st, extended to public marches. Hundreds of women across 30 Indian cities, including New Delhi, Mumbai, and Hyderabad, walked the streets flashing posters and chanting slogans to claim their equal right to roam public places. What set this movement apart is that members of the LGBT, queer, asexual, and intersex communities also participated in the marches, which even extended to smaller cities like Thrissur, Kerala.
It is largely thought that the United States is a tremendously safer place for women than India – but is it really? It is easy to think that such problems are only an ‘India or Middle-Eastern problem,’ but that is absolutely not true. While there are differences, the more I examine it, the easier it is to recognize the harsh similarities between the attitudes towards women in both countries.
Here in the US, the general attitude amongst women is to never take an Uber alone at night, and the same goes for in India too. There have been a few instances of Uber drivers sexually assaulting passengers in both countries. But we should not have to hide behind men to feel safe. A public space should not have a time constraint on when it is safely accessible for women versus men.
Inspired by the hate-filled election rhetoric, the Women’s March on Washington brought millions of Americans together to stand up for their basic human rights. Many important issues were touched on during the marches and many powerful speeches were made concerning immigration, funding for Planned Parenthood, and gender equality.
The #IWillGoOut movement embodies women reclaiming their right and normalcy to act and loiter, as do men, in public. Although apparently disparate, the American Women’s Marches fought for the same ideals that the #IWillGoOut movement stands by.
We both have struggles, which will only get better if we support one another. Women face the same issues, regardless of their country of residence. Our global sisterhood is vital and we need to protect it by encouraging and aiding our sister movements. Together we are stronger, and both the Women’s March on Washington and India’s #IWillGoOut campaign have made an important statement regarding the necessity of raising the bar on how women should be treated – to live a life without fear – regardless at which hour of the day or night they go out.
Anagha Kikkeri is a seventeen-year-old girl from Dallas, Texas. She is a political activist, focusing primarily on righting abuses of equality and human rights. On her own time, she enjoys playing the piano, volunteering, and spending time with her family.
To overcome global challenges, collective investments and groundwork are fundamental in advancing an equitable future across diverse communities. Sustainable development — a development that promotes growth through social, economic and environmental progress without compromising natural resources — is essential for human survival. At the young age of 21, Nirmala Ramprasad founded Green Dupatta, a sustainable development charity organization, and advocated for its importance through multiple pageant ambassadorships. As a philanthropic representative for the Indo Caribbean diaspora, her work showcases how individuals of any age have the ability to be changemakers for social advancement in areas such as environmental and agricultural protection and education.
In conversation with Ramprasad, the following answers have been edited for clarity and concision.
Growing up, did you resonate with your Indo Caribbean heritage? What ideals do you most connect with and want to pass on in creating positive change?
As a mixed-race person who grew up primarily within the Indo Caribbean community, I have always felt deeply connected to my culture and heritage. As a child I was fully immersed in all things Guyanese (I refused to wear anything but a lehenga to every school picture day). From a young age I was exposed to, and learned about, our music, food, political climate, history of indentureship and the importance of our cultural connection to India.
In regards to my nonprofit work, one of the most important lessons I take from my Indo Caribbean culture is the significance of ancestral knowledge and practices. One of the main tenets of my nonprofit work is sustainability and I have found that the most effective and practical sustainability practices can be found when we look back at the way our ancestors treated the land they lived on.
Although we are all changemakers in some way, I always advocate for community involvement in not only development, but also sustainability practices.
Can you describe what Green Dupatta is?
Green Dupatta is a sustainable development non-profit that I started when I was 21 and have since completed projects in Canada, Guyana, India and Trinidad. I work directly with project participants to co-create community-based spaces and programs that increase environmental awareness, food, water security and access to quality education through sustainable development models.
While most of Green Dupatta’s fundraising efforts take place in Canada, community projects are mainly done in Guyana and India.
In 2020, Ramprasad traveled to Guyana to work with locals in the town of Leonora. Together they replaced leaking zinc roofs, restored plumbing to old drains, re-poured concrete exteriors and repaved and repainted buildings to be used for yoga and meditation classes, affordable daycare and community gardens. To ensure donations are maximized, local contractors are always utilized. Green Dupatta aims to repair and reuse as many materials as possible. It does not dictate what the spaces should be used for, instead assists the community in having the agency select programming that benefits residents.
Across India, Ramprasad detailed Green Dupatta’s completion of seven projects in seven weeks in an eight-part YouTube docuseries. With partnership from JDS Public School in Varanasi, Green Dupatta constructed two sports facilities for student health, engaged in community outreach awareness campaigns on women’s empowerment and environmental conservation, aided in scholarship opportunities for students, helped create a community garden and provided the school with a system to harvest and irrigate water.
After this, they traveled to Devdaspur, a village with no clean water, to install a well with a shower enclosure, a water purification system and reservation tank, and a fenced enclosure food plantation. With their new ability to easily access clean water, people in Devdaspur showed an increase in social, economic and health outcomes. The community now had the resources to lower the percentage of water and hygiene-related illnesses, increase food and water independence, increase school attendance for children and increase productivity for adults, seeking work, without having to take time to filter or find clean water for their families.
Through successful sustainable development projects, resources are conserved and enhanced to empower communities to meet their needs, irrespective of their size or location. Like many sustainable development nonprofits, Green Dupatta’s international service delivery was significantly impacted by COVID-19 due to limitations with travel and in-person fundraising.
As a result, Ramprasad turned to her career as a special education teacher and utilized her knowledge to focus on a project that would directly help Toronto’s families and their schoolchildren.
Created as an emergency response to COVID-19 school shutdowns, Green Dupatta’s ‘Furnishing Minds’ project, “is based on a circular economy model in which slightly-used educational resources are redistributed to families in need.”
Since the program began in 2020, more than 1400 pounds of educational resources and curriculum-based materials have been redistributed within the Greater Toronto Area. Its success led to the project being formalized annually. Green Dupatta currently showcases free online guides to the Ontario curriculum, by grade level, for families looking for strategies to help their children’s academic growth and achievement.
Is Green Dupatta currently looking for more educators? How can people get involved?
I am always looking to expand my team! We are really lucky to have dedicated volunteers from a variety of different sectors and backgrounds. Nonprofit organizations can always use all the help they can get — we have general volunteers, event volunteers and sub-committee program volunteers. Anyone looking to get involved can directly message us on Instagram or our website.
What is your vision for Green Dupatta in the next five years?
In addition to co-creating new community projects and programs, I hope to continuously expand current Green Dupatta projects. With a larger team and additional funding, I would like to strengthen and scale our Furnishing Minds program, as well as increase our international presence, to fill needs and advocate for these communities. In order to build organizational capacity we are always looking to partner with like-minded individuals, businesses and other nonprofit organizations. In the past we were lucky to work with supportive organizations that provided valuable services, resources and expertise.
Outside of Green Dupatta and teaching, Ramprasad has a history of competing in pageants that reflect both her Indo Caribbean heritage and passion for service. She won the Miss West Indian Canadian pageant in 2015 and subsequently became the first Canadian representative at the Divali Nagar Queen Pageant in Trinidad and Tobago where she was awarded second runner-up. In 2020, she was invited to compete as Guyana’s representative in the Miss Face of Humanity Ambassador Search, an international event that showcases female changemakers from around the world. Ramprasad believes that competing in pageants offered, “a platform to educate others about my organization, and the importance of sustainable development as well as an opportunity to showcase myself as an individual capable and dedicated to carrying this torch.”
How was it representing Guyana on a global stage at the 2020 Miss Face of Humanity? What platform did you run on, and what message do you have for the next generation of Indo Caribbeans?
The Miss Face of Humanity competition was a unique experience for me as I was given the opportunity to represent both Guyana and the Green Dupatta Charitable Organization. I explored their intersection and looked at how my homeland and culture has impacted both my core values and philanthropic work.
Being part of a diasporic community is a uniquely beautiful, but also quite complex, place to be. All of our experiences are vastly different — some people feel deeply connected to their communities and some feel very far removed. Although there are many struggles that come from being once, or twice-removed, people are facing much different struggles in the places our ancestors called home.
My advice to the next generation of Indo Caribbeans is to remember that a diasporic community is very different from a local one. Although some of us may feel very connected to our communities and cultures as they are practiced abroad, we should make space to amplify the voices of our motherlands and remember to give back to places that have given us so much.
Ramprasad says juggling work and leading a nonprofit can be deeply taxing; often fielding criticism and making personal sacrifices. Nonetheless, she loves what she does and is eager to implement sustainable development practices around the world. Through these projects, communities are equipped with the techniques, tools and knowledge to uplift themselves. Ramprasad is forever grateful that she was drawn to a life of service and believes that it is of utmost importance to actively collaborate with communities in order to preserve the environment and improve the access to quality education.
To learn more about Green Dupatta, visit their website. You can follow Nirmala’s journey on Instagram @nrampsy.