The world is her stage; its women can't wait

NEW DELHI, NOV. 1. Using only a diaphanous scarf as a prop in what turns out to be a compelling show, she goes around the world meeting women who are victims of violence. As she draws attention to utterly discriminatory laws against them, the underlying message emerges loud and clear: ``Women can't wait.''

Stringing together these tales of violence against women from eight different countries across the world is the internationally acclaimed poet, playwright and actress Sarah Jones who recently made her debut in Spike Lee's Hollywood film ``Bamboozled''. Her eight powerful stories represent one determined fight to change the world.

When she covers her head, she becomes Praveen, a timid Indian woman who musters enough courage to talk about beatings by her husband; when she ties the scarf jauntily round her neck, she turns into a vivacious French woman, Emeraude, defying laws against women working at night. As the scarf moves over her body, she becomes Tomoko from Japan, Hala from Jordan, Alma from Uruguay, Bonita from the U.S., Shira from Israel and, finally, as she enacts little Anna from Kenya, the scarf is balled up and transformed into a doll!

First seen thus at the U.N. General Assembly in New York in June this year as part of the International Year for Women's Empowerment celebrations, Sarah Jones was here at Delhi University's Hindu College today with her powerful dialogue of equality in eight different voices. Far removed from the usual run-of-the-mill Broadway plays, the 50-minute ``Women Can't Wait'' monologue was well received by both students and faculty.

Says Ms. Jones: ``No matter what country you are looking at, women are still fighting for their rights. In many countries including India, they do not even have a right over their own bodies. In Jordan, the laws are so tough that women can even be slain in the so-called shameful honour killings.''

Having done another remarkable play, ``Surface Transit'', that focused on multicultural realities in New York earlier, Ms.Jones readily accepted the offer of a U.S.-based women's organisation ``Equality Now'' to dramatise the need for a more gender-friendly world. ``A lot of us in our own culture are able to focus on the violations that happen in other cultures. But no one looks at the issue in a broad manner,'' says the 26-year-old actress.

While this New Yorker has written the screenplay for the monologue herself, it is directed by Gloria Feliciano. Though she has enacted the play in bits and pieces in the U.S., the present India tour is her first full-fledged performance. ``Thus far the response has been quite favourable and I am looking forward to my India visit,'' she says.

Taking this plea for equality across India is ``Creating Resources for Empowerment in Action,'' an NGO working for gender equality, in collaboration with several women's organisations including Nalamdana, Point of View, Sanhita, Swayam, Tarshi, Vacha and Communication for Development and Learning.

Ms.Jones, who is slated to perform at India Habitat Centre here on November 3 and 4, will also visit Mumbai, Bangalore, Kolkata and Chennai. ``Speaking about these issues has personally benefited me a lot,'' quips the vivacious artiste.

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