A new documentary highlights the plight, dreams, rights, and struggles women in India face against all forms of violence. It came about after Srishti Bakshi, who was in Hong Kong at the time, heard about the gang-rape of a mother and daughter on Highway 91 in Bulandshahr district in 2016.
Shocked and disturbed, Bakshi decided to not be a silent spectator to rising crime against women in her country and went back to do something about it.
She spoke with her parents and her husband, who backed her all the way. In fact, her father, Lt Gen Ashwini Kumar Bakshi of the Indian army, even helped arrange a meeting with Indian President Ram Nath Kovind, who asked her to put together a white paper on the issue.
“WOMB – Women of My Billion,” the documentary that resulted, captures her 3,800 km, 230-day journey on foot from Kanyakumari to Srinagar, during which she worked to create awareness about women’s safety, and offered empowerment through financial and digital literacy. The film highlights the survivor stories of activist Pragya Prasun Singh, Lt. Col. Sangeeta Tiwari, and Neha Rai.
“WOMB” documents her interaction with some of the 85,000 women she met during the more than 100 workshops she conducted at schools, villages and institutions along the way.
“We have celebrated ordinary women who’ve shown extraordinary courage to rise above their limitations and challenge deeply entrenched gender norms.” Bakshi was quoted as saying in a press release. “We did this to unite the majority because what we discovered was that ‘gender-based violence is a crime perpetrated by the minority but perpetuated by the silence of the majority.”
For her work, Bakshi was named the India winner of Britain’s Commonwealth Points of Light award, which she received from Sir Dominic Asquith, the then British high commissioner to India, on behalf of Queen Elizabeth.
In 2017, Srishti Bakshi, was named an Empower Women Champion for Change** 2016-2017 by the UN Women’s Empower Women Initiative.
Director Ajitesh Sharma pointed out that “violence against women and girls is a human rights violation. Since the outbreak of COVID-19 and the world locking down to live within four walls, emerging data and reports … have shown that all types of violence against women and girls – particularly domestic violence – has only intensified. With “WOMB,” I aim to bring forth inspiring stories of fight and survival, which Srishti was privy to by meeting brave women on her walk. My aim is to pass on this privilege of knowing these women and their stories to inspire conversations on how gender norms need to be overhauled.”
According to Executive Producer Juliet Blake, “In my work for TED Talks in India, I have met many women who have been subject to unspeakable acts of violence and have listened to their stories in abject horror. In ‘Women of My Billion,’ Srishti Bakshi takes us on a profoundly moving journey illuminating the pernicious issue of gender-based violence, weaving a remarkable narrative that speaks both to the resilience of India’s women, and to the urgent need for societal change.”
Producer Apoorva Bakshi put it in even starker terms.
“We have lived with patriarchy as an unspoken norm and the problems it causes for women for so long, that somewhere we, the majority, have stopped acknowledging it as a problem altogether,” Bakshi said. “This is the first step towards finding solutions for change. At Awedacious Originals, we believe in collaborating with fearless filmmakers, and supporting urgent and mission driven stories that have the ability to move, inform, stop you in your tracks, make you think or feel more deeply. ‘WOMB’ is a true example of such impactful storytelling. We look forward to sharing the same with audiences worldwide.”
The film is the debut feature of director Ajitesh Sharma, and produced by Apoorva Baksha, the International Emmy-winning producer of “Delhi Crime,” and her partners, Monisha Thyagarajan and Gururaj Dixit. Purviz Shroff and Jitin Hingorani were co-producers of the film.