The writer finds a website where women exchange notes about food, fashion, hobbies and life
As a girl, Aparna had not heard about feminism. But, she would blow her top every time her uncle told her that a woman could not argue against a man for he had certain liberties that she did not. “Doesn’t that mean the woman needs more powers?” Aparna would question.
The thought stuck with her as she went to college, studied journalism and later entered the world of business, working as marketing professional for corporate groups. She also worked as a communication consultant in small firms. While gender was rarely a barrier for her to get a job, she did observe how deep rooted prejudices existed in subtle forms. “I came across bosses who believed that women deserved wages lower than men,” says Aparna Vedapuri Singh. After she worked for others for a while, Aparna decided to be her own boss. A passion for words and the desire to capture the life of the urban Indian woman motivated her to launch an online magazine, Women’s Web, in June 2010.
The magazine is a mix of stories about women entrepreneurs and activists. There are book reviews and home décor suggestions that are shared widely on social networking sites. There are also articles about women’s rights and sexual harassment at work space. “If you go to an office full of women, the first thing they do is warn you against the ‘office lech’. There are so many women who are still not aware of the legal framework that protects us from sexual harassment at workspace,” says Aparna. Tips for mothers, travelogues and women’s health issues are popular with the readers of this website. In the Book Review section, Aparna says works that have reinterpreted female characters from Indian epics such as Draupadi and Sita have often turned viral.
Eve-teasing related articles are also well received, says Aparna. “We published the story of the Thasni Banu case in Kerala. Thasni was harassed by the local men for walking on the streets with a male friend, late at night. These are day to day problems, which many of us face in this country. Sharing these stories will help us realise we are not alone.”
Blog writers, scholars and journalists, from across the globe contribute to the website. Before recruiting writers for the website, Aparna surfs through blogs by women. “Just reading them, you realise how diverse their interests are. They write about movies, food, fashion and work place challenges. I wanted to capture this multi-faceted individual, whom I felt the mainstream media missed. Women are not just about looks, as TV and magazines seem to project,” she says.
Also, online space is more democratic than conventional media. “Many of our writers are not professionals. But I publish their articles if I feel they put forward a relevant argument. And, as an editor I polish their style. These are voices that might otherwise never have an audience. Online reading is catching up fast, as many of us are glued to our smart phones,” she says.
Women’s Web has organised Facebook events, where they have had a common chat with an author or a business expert. They have also held business and writing workshops in Bangalore and Chennai.
“We had a good response. The participants interacted with the writer and the business coach. They, in turn, gave them tips on career shifts,” recalls Aparna.
A lot of women professionals are now turning entrepreneurs, notes Aparna. “This is so inspiring. The modern Indian woman juggles a lot of things. She is a home maker, mother and also an earning member. That is why her stories are fascinating and worth writing about.”