Lend me your ears

Anjali Jhangiani
Sunday, 10 March 2019

Meri Kahaani is an India-based initiative for women to share their stories. Launching its Norway edition, journalist and activist Mahira Karim talks about the significance of providing a platform for women across borders to share and inspire

Meri Kahaani International, an initiative to encourage women to come out and tell their stories, was  launched on International Women’s Day (March 8) in Norway. Journalist and activist Mahira Karim, who hosted the first session in Oslo, talks to us about the need for such a platform for women to share and connect with each other.   

- What was this event all about?
International Women’s Day is an exciting day for Meri Kahaani. It was the launch of Meri Kahaani International in Norway. The event was about bringing all women together to celebrate womanhood. At this event, Meri Kahaani raised the question— How can women contribute to a sustainable society in Norway through dialogue and sharing narratives?

Through a workshop, we addressed this question and started a process of sharing our experiences. Since this was our first event in Norway, our primary aim was to create a network of women who believe in story sharing as a means to create an inclusive and sustainable society.

- How do you select or find women to come up and tell their stories? Or do they reach out to you?
Meri Kahaani Norway is in its early stage, and invites women to share their stories. The team in Norway has worked hard to find women who see value in sharing their stories. For us, it is important that these women recognise the power of their words, and how they are able to contribute towards making a change. 

We are working hard in creating a platform with a purpose of creating a safe space where women can speak and share what is on their minds without any social or structural interference. In near future, we hope that we will be able to build a platform where women feel inspired by listening to other women’s stories, and feel encouraged to come up to narrate their own.

- How do the women select the stories to tell? What is the brief given to them?
Stories have the power to change hearts and minds. It is important that women are open to tell stories from their lives and the experiences that have had an impact on who they are today. Meri Kahaani does not provide any instructions as to what they should share. This is something the women themselves can decide. We hope that women continue to make their presence felt by talking about their lives, their joys, their troubles and whatever else they feel like sharing. Nothing is too mundane for Meri Kahaani. It is your ‘kahaani.’ You get to choose.

- Why does this project focus on Indian and Pakistani women based in Norway?
Meri Kahaani invites all women, coming from different walks of life, no matter their age and ethnicity. Meri Kahaani is aiming towards a transnational audience and encourages women to share their stories across borders.

Participants of this workshop are Norwegian women, and women of the Indian and Pakistani diaspora in Norway. It is interesting to observe that women from India and Pakistan are finding it easy to identify with our initiative due to its name — Meri Kahaani. The platform has also encouraged many homemakers to feel welcome in initiating change in the community.

- What was your experience of planning, organising and moderating this session in Oslo?
This event was designed as a workshop to facilitate dialogue on the topic of women as contributors of creating an inclusive and sustainable society, with a focus on their personal stories. Our expectation from this event is that the women who participated should feel like they have contributed in starting something very important and that they have an urge to come back and continue the conversation. We want them to feel like they are part of a community where they can be themselves and talk about issues and topics that are of relevance to them.

- How does the Norway edition of Meri Kahaani contribute towards building a more feminist society in the country?
So, the question is implying that our society is not feminist enough. Identifying the problem is the first step, and we have taken that. Further, we hope that these stories will challenge the current narrative of women and echo their vision for this society.

Like any other country, Norway needs to make capacity for women-only dialogues where women themselves pinpoint the issues that are important for them to address. Therefore, diversity is important for Meri Kahaani as it illustrates a better representation of women in Norway.

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