Priya Empowering Women In India

Priya Varadarajan is a super talented social entrepreneur and founder of I’m Every Woman (2009) and Durga (2012). I’m Every Women is a platform where inspiring women are brought close to aspiring women, while Durga is an initiative which empowers women to be in control of their safety. She is a passionate person who works incredibly hard to support and empower women in India.

Thank you for joining us and congratulations on winning the Outstanding Achievement Award at the Asian Voice Charity Awards. Can you tell us what this means to you?

Thank you so much. I would like to special appreciation to the amazing organizers and the entire team that put this together. This award is extremely special to me and the team. It proves that we are on the right path and gives us a great sense of motivation to continue working in the area of women and girl safety.

Please can you tell us about what you do?

Durga is a citizen sector initiative that equips women and girls with basic life skills to understand behaviour and deter crime. Theatre and theatre techniques are used to deliver our workshops, where women and girls explore their thresholds and response systems. We are 3 years old and have created over 3,000 Durga’s who think about their safety seriously in different parts of India.

What has been your greatest achievement to date?

Durga has constantly experienced progress in the last 3 years. Our single biggest philosophy is to help women understand positively that they are the first level of police for themselves and that they have a key role for the safety of others too. This we call the Role of the Bystander. During the course of our journey with women and girls, we realized that 90% of them felt violated in public transport and were unable to think of a way out of harassment in confined public transport. To address this, we came up with a simple electronic product called the Durga Alarm that is fitted into public transport in Bangalore’s buses and women have used this successfully and deterred crime. We are not looking to commercialize this idea which I believe is a runaway hit!

Who has been your biggest source of inspiration?

Every woman and girl who believes that she can address her safety herself to a large extent and wants to explore the unexplored, bust every myth, disrupt social practices and defy the conventional concepts of being an Indian woman excites me so much. She inspires me to want to be like her and help 100s and 1000s of others to be like her. This is given birth to Durga Diaries where we are chronicling ways in which real women have battled against sexual harassment successfully and don’t shy away from identifying themselves and sharing their stories.

So what prompted you start Durga?

In December 2012, when the entire India shook with rage and question after the Nirbhaya episode, there were several talks about different things that can be done for women and girls towards their safety. There were ideas of strengthening the political/legal and advocacy systems, better policing, better technology interventions and so on. Nothing was being discussed on equipping women and girls to look after themselves. We felt that this is the simplest, yet most revolutionary intervention and hence started Durga with the idea of creating women who will dare to understand behaviour, respond appropriately and guard ourselves ably.

What does the future hold for you and for Durga?

This is really just the beginning for Durga and of course through Durga for me too. We have great plans to take this movement nationally. Create 1000’s of Durga’s who begin to think that they are in control of their safety in the first instance and that they can be responsible while feeling empowered. This year we plan to commercialize the Durga Alarm, get it certified for quality and standard and roll it out in Bangalore’s buses.
What advice would you give to those that want to start a social enterprise or charity?
I am also a new entrant in this sector. It is of utmost importance to think of a good sustainable model where stakeholders have a reason to push your ideas and whatever is done is done with complete sincerity keeping the cause in mind at all times.

Anything else you would like to add?

Come and join us in this movement called Durga. It’s for women and girls in India, but it appeals to every individual across the world, as it’s about demanding dignity!

Leave a Reply