Using words as weapon to fight against oppression
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Using words as weapon to fight against oppression

We bring to you three contemporary poetesses who are using poetry to cut down regressive practices

Using words as weapon to fight against oppression

Literature in general and poetry, in particular, is a very strong medium to highlight social concerns and personal emotions. For ages, many women have used this medium to start discourses on gender issues and identity.

This International Women's Day, we bring to you three contemporary poetesses who are using poetry as a weapon to cut down regressive social norms, stereotypes, stigmas, and gender biases.

Damini Yadav

Damini Yadav is a well-known name when it comes to ‘protest poetry’. She has ruffled many feathers and punctured many male egos with her poems such as Mahavaari, a poem about the male perception of a lady’s menstrual cycle and related pains.

Damini wrote her first feminist poem when she was barely 14. It was her reaction to the restrictions she saw as a child being placed on women in the patriarchal society she lived in. Says she, “I read that poem on my school’s annual day. I got a very appreciative reaction from the audience. People started noticing me after that.”

When she read her poem Mahavaari on a stage, in front of 500 plus strong audience, in Haryana Sahitya Srijan Mahotsav (2017) she got in response a pin drop silence. This initial response was followed by a standing ovation.

Over the years, she has been highlighting women-related issues in a similar vein. Always unafraid to voice her opinion. Says she, “I believe poetry is a very strong medium to put across your views or raise an issue. I write when I am compelled to write by a force from within. Basically, I write when I am truly inspired and issues related to women do inspire me in that manner.”

Damini is of a very strong opinion that women's safety is the most important issue that must be addressed by all sections of our society and individual voices too. “If we are able to solve the women’s safety issue then we would have solved almost 50 per cent of the problems that the women face today as many ills that are bestowed on a woman stem from the issue of women safety.”

Having a strong social media presence, some of her popular women-oriented poems are, Taal Thok Ke, Balaatkar ka purvabhas and Devi.

Puja Rai

Puja Rai hails from the male-dominated environs of Gajipur in Uttar Pradesh. Besides being a poetess she is a teacher in a primary school in Gajipur.

Puja writes poetry on a variety of socially relevant issues, including war. A very strong part of her writing has always been on women-oriented issues. Says she, “Women have always been the downtrodden section of society. Even today their status is in many ways unequal to the males. Very early on in their lives, some boundaries are set and they are expected to live their lives within those boundaries. We still live in a male-dominated world, that is why it is important to write on women-related issues.”

Early in her life, Puja felt that she is being seen as a woman and not as the individual she is and a certain kind of predestined conduct is being expected of her. Says she, “I must have been my school. That is when I started expressing myself through poems.”

As for her writing, she is very clear. Says she, “One should write only when one feels a strong desire to express something. When the pain comes from within then you are true to your poetry.” Puja thinks that your poem must inspire others to think and bring a positive change in society.

When it comes to women's issues there is so much that Puja finds compelling to write about. “It is most important to understand the women and their perspective of things. Even today, it is not easy being a women writer who is highlighting women's issues. In our place of work, we are faced with a lot of stereotypes and gender barriers. Many times, I have seen that it is the women who further these stereotypes and gender barriers. That is why it is important for even women to understand these issues.”

Shabd Shabd Yatraeyen, Srajan Guchh and gumsum zindagi are three of her poetry collections.

Akanksha Pare Kashiv

It has been a decade since Akanksha Pare Kashiv has been writing poems that highlight issues related to women. A journalist and a writer by profession, she wants equality and a confident existence for the woman of today. “I don't want to be too loud while talking about women's issues. I think being too loud would make us lose our focus on the main issues. Holding a cigarette or a glass of wine does not make you bold. What matters is how you conduct yourself in real life. Your boldness reflected in your thinking.”

She finds poetry as a very effective tool in giving a deep and elaborate representation of whatever a writer wants to convey.

Akanksha is a resident of Vaishali, Ghaziabad. Says she, “Even today there is a huge need to highlight issues related to women. Is there any sphere where women have achieved victory or got an equal status? Even today there is a need for instilling mutual understanding between men and women, even when it comes to the present generation. Once this mutual understanding is achieved only then we will be able to see the manifestation of a world which writers such as I imagine. It is this mutual understanding which will free women from the violence inflicted on them.”