Indian Express - Meta Stories of Strength

Women were always speaking, there was no one listening: Smriti Irani

Union Minister for Women & Child Development Smriti Irani on why it is important to carefully use words on social media, the success story of campaigns like #NariSeKharidari when she was Union Minister, Textiles, the impact of technology in empowering women and on maintaining privacy in the online world. The session was moderated by Celebrity Chef Suvir Saran for HER Stories of Strength by The Indian Express and Meta.

August 14, 2022 12:02:44 pm

Auratein hamesha bol rahi thi, sunne wala koi nahi tha (Women were always speaking, there was no one listening)”, Union Minister Smriti Irani said at a special interview with The Indian Express as part of the HER Stories of Strength series. Irani spoke of how social media and technology have helped empower women. “Many women, I think, have found themselves offline when they express themselves online. To say that technology is to be limited to emancipating women from the perspective of enterprise is to take a myopic position, because one of the greatest gifts that technology can give you is expression, and the freedom to do so.”

In conversation with celebrity chef Suvir Saran, Irani stressed upon expressing herself on social media but with a modicum of responsibility. “One of the things we must be mindful of when we leverage technology is to speak about it on many platforms, online or offline, is to be mindful of every word we use because we are tested on every word that we use. We need to recognize this as we grow and flourish technologically. We lose a sense of self. We lose a sense of privacy. We also lose a sense of ourselves because we are always looking for that one take, for that one heart, for that one acceptance. We hate those comments which denounce us. We never recognize that people who possibly denounced us are so angry about their own lives. My biggest concern is if I give away every part of me on a technology platform. And I don’t.”

Irani also shared how she came up with hashtags #localforposhan and #narisekharidari for social media campaigns when she was the minister for textiles. “I think it is important to recognize all three platforms. And WhatsApp I don’t think is married to the hashtag community but between Facebook and Instagram, there is a mindset, there is different demography that entertains a particular thought. So, many people try to cut, copy and paste a possible methodology of communication from Facebook and then they wonder why it’s not working on Instagram and vice-versa. I was lucky that when I was Minister Textile, we wanted to popularise Indian handles and the administration had done much but we all know that at such time it doesn’t get embraced by people. It does not work. So, we had a fantastic product. There is a synergy between market forces and governance that came about when the Prime Minister initiated India’s handloom brand. One of the greatest challenges that segment had is that youngsters did not like it. They felt that they could not relate to the product. Many middle-class families said, “Rang nikal jaata hai jaldi. Easy to wear nahi hai” (The color comes off, not easy to wear). And I remember that time I spoke to many brands. For instance, BIBA which is a very popular clothing brand, and I told them what if you make out of ‘Pochampalli’ and we got them connected to the Pochampalli community. Then people said why is it only for women. Why can’t men have something? We spoke to Allen Solly and Allen Solly did handloom shorts with mother of pearl buttons but after the product is made, you can’t just imagine it on a shelf and not popularise it. So between citizens and brands, we all got together and we started with the handloom hashtag on Twitter and it became, national handloom day, and became a social media favorite. It started something five years ago and no one has looked back since.”

Watch the entire interview here.

Indian Express - Meta Stories of Strength