Dhruv Arora - Co-creator of GotStared.At & #itsnotyourfault, to end street harassment of women and girls
A digital expert and a gender activist, Dhruv Arora, 25, is passionate about both these dimensions of his work and is widely known in New Delhi, India, as the man galvanizing action through an online movement on gender issues. He is one of the creators behind GotStared.At and #itsnotyourfault, an online movement that he built with his friend Kuber. The platforms provide an outlet for people experiencing street harassment, and advances debate on the multiple issues involved. We asked Dhruv a few questions on what drives him to fight for gender equality:
- What do you think have been the most important factors that have helped in getting you where you are today?
Most importantly, in the last decade, there has been a drastic change in the way people have started reacting to certain incidents and speaking up about issues like women’s empowerment, their all-round development and progress and gender equality that were never discussed earlier. This positive change has made it possible to further the cause with our efforts. Secondly, the misconception that “Feminism” is a women-to-women issue and that men had nothing to do with it, is gradually getting eradicated from the minds of this generation. However, there still remains a lot more that needs to be done and achieved in order to realize our goal.
- What were some of the biggest obstacles to reaching where you are today?
The biggest obstacle was the environment that I grew up in. I am from a middle-class, business family background and my family members never spoke about gender issues. I was conditioned to believe that I needed to grow up to be a man who would eventually have to earn a living and run the family. No woman in my family was ever expected to earn a living. The onus of earning for a living was only on the men and hence they were treated superior.
- Tell us a bit about your childhood, your ambitions and who inspired or influenced you to be who you are today?
I studied in the Air-Force School where again we spoke of great Air Force and Army officers – a field which was male-dominated. The students were mostly children whose fathers were in the armed forces. Although it was a co-educational school, the girls were mainly taught to behave well, sit properly and study well for a future married life and not really encouraged to take up challenging careers. When boys were punished in the school, often they were asked to sit with the girls as a part of the punishment. No one ever questioned why the girls were treated so differently than the boys in our school. We were all conditioned to think that way and just continued to accept the age-old notion that boys were superior. I became an engineer by profession because I was “supposed to” become one and not just because I wanted to. The pressure and burden of being the earning member of the family drove me to take up the profession.
- What do you believe is your greatest contribution, to society/community?
I am spreading awareness on important gender issues to as many people as I can reach out to, in order to make a strong impact on society and in changing the mindsets of the people. Only then can there be an inclusive society where women and men can both lead peaceful lives. I have made sure that my brother, who is still a student, and other family members are aware of the gender issues and sensitized them regarding the importance of speaking up on such issues.
- What is your main message for the younger generation? What should they learn from your experience?
We are made to believe certain things from childhood and form notions which become a part of our daily behaviour and mindset. However, my message to the younger generation is that they must “question” such conditioning and reason them out to see whether the notions are pragmatic and meaningful in today’s context. They should question, intervene and break free from the age-old notions which may be of no relevance now. The youth should realize that the issues dealing with gender equality are not only mine but everybody’s, as they impact the life of everybody in general.
- What is your message for other women/ girls who may be inspired by your journey and achievements?
Please don’t wait for others to speak up or take action to bring about the necessary changes regarding gender equality. Take the initiative yourself and if you can’t speak to 50 people, at least you can speak to 10 or two or one. But do speak up and question the mindsets and pre-conditioned views of people around you. Try to influence everyone around you and spread awareness.