Hope to high heels, women find power in all

Tales of choice, strength & style shared on Day one of festival

By Chandreyee Ghose in Calcutta
  • Published 18.11.17

Calcutta: Both patriarchy and empowerment are symbols of power. But the real power people bring others up and do not discriminate.

This idea set off the first Women's Empowerment Festival, in association with The Telegraph and curated by Ahava Communications, at the Calcutta Club on Friday. The chief guest was information technology minister Bratya Basu.

The first session, "Who is the empowered woman today?", moderated by Gauri Basu, saw a range of touching stories coming to the fore. Empowerment is in the hope, choice and in knowing where to draw the line. It is also about liberating others, including men. Dancer-activist Alokananda Roy, entrepreneur Malavika Banerjee, anti-trafficking activist Ruchira Gupta, filmmaker Sudeshna Roy, lawyer-entrepreneur Oindrilla Dutt and entrepreneur Smita Bajoria said how they did that in their work and personal life.

Alokananda Roy shared how she began her journey at the Alipore Correctional Home, where she saw men and woman coming out of a negative space to be liberated through art. "I feel proud, so many prisoners have managed to empower themselves in the process," she said.

Gupta, who works with women who have survived trafficking, spoke of how she saw hope in brothels all over the world. "A desire to educate their daughters... everywhere I saw the triumph of hope," said Gupta.

Ten panelists in the second session debated how a woman of substance can be defined. She who makes a choice even if it is to have carefully manicured nails; she who dares to play football; she who can multitask; she who celebrates failures with equal grace - opinions went back and forth among the panelists, including hotelier Asma Khan, founder of Calcutta Walks Iftekhar Ahsan, academicians John Bagul, Suvina Shunglu and Suman Mukherjee, dancer Mitul Sengupta, beauty pro Priscilla Corner and singer Sayani Palit.

"A semi-literate chef is also a woman of substance," said hotelier Khan.

"If we choose feminist men in leadership roles, the world would be a better place," said Ahsan.

The final session of the day asked how empowering fashion was for a woman.

From power dressing, Javanese batik and smoky eyes to how Indian designers have made sari sexy - fashion was dissected by makeup artist Abhijit Chanda, fashion designers Abhishek Dutta and Sharbari Datta, artist Paula Sengupta, footwear designer Rohan Arora, and model Ushoshi Sengupta in the last session.

"Do shoes really lift your body language?" moderator Oindrilla Dutt wanted to know. "Shoes do add to your confidence but there is nothing sexier than a short girl wearing heels to a party," said footwear designer Rohan Arora.

"A beauty pageant like Miss Universe India made me realise how people look up to us," said Sengupta. "I started feeling responsible."

Popular opinion: A true stylish woman is one who is comfortable with herself.