Hina P. Ansari: Welcome to The ANOKHI UNCENSORED Show, I’m your host, Hina, and I’m really excited to have Roopa Modha as part of The ANOKHI ADVOCATE List 2021. Roopa has been advocating for girls’ education, so I really can’t wait to get into the thick of things with her. Of course, Roopa, thank you so much for agreeing to be a part of The ANOKHI ADVOCATE List which is to commemorate our 19th anniversary of ANOKHI. So let’s get started!
Roopa as a law student held panels on women’s education. One law in the state of Connecticut stated that if a woman is raped by her husband, it wasn’t rape. This was changed after the panel she held, where she brought this fact up to the panelists, including a Connecticut Supreme Court Judge. Roopa is also an ambassador for Girl Rising. Other celebrity ambassadors for Girl Rising include Priyanka Chopra Jonas and Freida Pinto. She a children’s book The Fish Who Wanted To Go To School to raise money for girls’ education. She also wrote, “I Rise” by Agents of Harmony to raise funds for girls’ education. And the song was composed by top composer in India. For her advocating for girls’ education in 2021, she was chosen as Women Apart Awards international brand ambassador. In 2021, she’s also the recipient of a Factsheet Women’s Award for her work in girls education and women empowerment, and she was nominated in 2021 for the Women of Vigor Award that honours outstanding women in the world. This is like a slice of all of these accolades that she has received. So Roopa, welcome to The ANOKHI UNCENSORED Show.
Roopa Modha: Thank you so much and thank you for honoring me with this. I think I’ve been following ANOKHI for such a long time, and as the name says, it’s a very unique publication. You guys definitely encapsulate everything there is in media and you guys have been supporting this community for such a long time. I think you guys deserve a lot of love and respect from all of us as well for all the hard work you put in. So I feel truly blessed to be part of this. I think it’s really exciting to connect during this time and to be honoured by the platform that I’ve been following and I truly respect. So thank you so much.
HPA: Oh well, the love is mutual, so thank you so much for such kind words. Now I want to ask you for our global audience who’s listening and watching this: your advocacy for girls education, where did that start? How did that come to be?
RM: So let me step back a little bit. When I was really little, I actually used to do a lot of dance, used to do sports, and I got a major injury in my hand where a hockey stick had actually hit my hand. It hit the nerve and the pain gone up my arm, down my back and I used to actually be paralyzed. I could only see half my visual field. So growing up, it was very difficult. I loved going to school which made everything much easier for me because when I’m in the classroom, I just retained everything as is. And my classmates supported me. But the I think the backlash was from the teachers and actually the principal. So they actually were the ones who are more in bully mode than my friends. And the entire community who was supporting me was pretty much my own age group. And that’s not something we see these days. I think my classmates were really the ones that pushed me up and supported me. And in fact, because during that time, I could probably only attend a few days in class because in the mornings I just couldn’t move due to the pain. So we actually started taking college classes starting in ninth grade, and that’s how I graduated in time with my classes. I started doing all these college courses to earn the credit that I needed to graduate in time for high school as they were penalizing me for knowing the material and knowing everything I was doing without being in the classroom.
So the key moment actually happened when my principal called me into his office and told me, ‘You’re never going to make anything of yourself. You will not graduate in time with your class. You’re not going to do anything with your life. You might as well drop out of school’. But this was something that hit me hard because I think he was only seeing this because I was a girl, because I think the mindset was, is that, ‘oh, I don’t think you will be able to do as much just because you’re this female figure in the school’. And I was still doing well academically. I was scoring top marks, but they would still mark me down just because of the fact, ‘Oh, you missed class’. So at that time going through this, I thought to myself, ‘I’m never letting any other girl thiink she’s subpar .’ When he told me that I’m not going to make anything with myself, I won’t be able to do anything. I won’t accomplish anything, I was like, ‘let me prove to you what I can do’. That’s the fuel. You need that little spark. Don’t ever tell anyone whether they’re a girl or a boy, they can’t do anything. You don’t know their potential and why suppress them? They should have been the figures in my life. They were telling me that you can’t make that change. You can’t make a difference.
So luckily, my parents, my entire family has always been focused on education. I went on to graduate in time with my high school class. I got a degree in programing. I went to Brandeis, did a degree in health science society policy. I taught my classes at all those schools. I went to got my J.D. and I was commencement speaker actually for all three. So as commencement speaker for my SBC and for the JD. And during this time, I came across all these articles about how girls around the world were not getting access to quality education, and they didn’t have that motivating force. They didn’t have that access. And I thought to myself, ‘This is my chance. I can be that person’. It only takes one person. I really believe in the power of one. And even if you add one more person, that’s at least one person you’ve helped and made a difference in the world. So that’s where I kind of started. And that’s where also in terms of programing, we think of it still as a male-dominated field. And there’s another moment, where I walked into the classroom, I was the only girl in the room and the professor asked me, ‘Are you? Are you in the right place?’ And I was like, ‘Of course I’m in the right place.’
So we still have these biases even within our communities here. Like we think of these as Third World issues, we still think the mindset that girls can make, it doesn’t exist in this modern world, but it still does. And I think even in one of the classes where we had to build a computer from scratch, the professor said, ‘Are you sure you’ll be able to handle this?’ I was like, ‘Yeah, don’t worry’. Mine was the only computer that worked on the first try. So these are things that had affected me through the years, and I was thinking to myself,’ I want to help girls come up’. No one else will support us if we don’t support ourselves. Girls can top any field we want. We look at any field these days. Women are at the top, whether it’s media or law, computer science, medicine, the top names are there even for NASA’s recent launch. Most of the women were the programmers in charge, so I think this is something that I wanted to do. And when I realized that I could help other girls, I jumped on it. So even while I was when I got my associates, they actually helped raise money to build a school in Sri Lanka that they used to teach girls all this new education. And the thing is that when you do these advocacy initiatives, I think the importance is also sustaining the long term. Sometimes we just build it up, we’re able to raise the funds and sometimes people drop out. ‘OK, that was enough’. But we need to make sure to follow up and follow through on all these. And that’s really where my interest started. As I was told, I couldn’t make it, and I realized I could tell someone they could.
HPA: Wow that’s interesting. So where did you go to school, grow up?
RM: So I was actually born and raised in Massachusetts. I’m kind of been with the middle of work. I took me more to Connecticut and New York Law School is actually in Connecticut.
HPA: I just wanted to let our our audience know that all of this stuff happened here. It wasn’t in India or it wasn’t like you were saying in a Third World country, it all happened here, this resistance to allowing women and girls to be able to follow through on male-dominated careers.
RM: Exactly. So even in terms of my schooling, luckily for the most part, it’s been great everyone supporting women, but even those one or two instances should not be taking place. I feel like at this and this point in our lifetime, in this point in the world, we shouldn’t be seeing this happening as frequently as it is because even in terms of looking at statistics before, even in all of these companies here in the US and law firms, very few women make it to the partner level. And that’s something that I think needs to change. And that’s why I had started my own law firm because of one of my male professors who told me, ‘If you have the ability to do your own law firm, then you can do more yourself and keep control and make a difference’. And I think as much as there are some males who thought women can’t do it, we do have to acknowledge those men who did support us as well. My dad always wanted girls. My mom said that when she was pregnant with my sister, he says he was praying that he got a little girl soon. He said that he wanted to be the one to encourage women and be there. So I’ve been really blessed to have parents and a sister who they have shown what women power is, and my dad’s been such a good advocate and support. I think it’s very key to have those male people supporting us as well. We need the males to support us. We need women to support women asolutely.
HPA: It makes such a huge difference. And especially like you were saying, even though it’s one or two instances of being told that you can’t do something, those instances weigh very heavily on your soul. And that is something that everyone needs to understand that oh, sure, people can say, well, it only happened once, or it only happened twice throughout your entire career academic career journey. But you know what? It shouldn’t happen at all because those two instances really weigh heavily on one person.
RM: It could have gone the other way if I didn’t have that support system. And if I see my principal as someone who is this figure who’s idolized within this school of higher up officials telling you you can’t make it. I might have believed it, but luckily I’ve always had confidence in myself and I know that I can make a difference. And my parents have always said to help other people. That’s the mindset that always grown up with them. So they actually grew up in Gujarat, in the same town that Mahatma Gandhi grew up in. So my family always followed that mindset to be the change that you wish to see in the world. So even as a kid, I remember, even besides supporting girls education, I had seen some of my friends who did not have enough income to even support bringing themselves a snack to snack time, so I would give them mine instead. And I actually used to talk to the principal and let them know that these students don’t have enough. Is there anything we could do? And I remember at lunch, the lunch lady [said], ‘OK, I’ll give you more portions. So then you can split it up as a full meal’.
HPA: Oh my gosh, that’s amazing.
RM: These are little moments, and I never really thought much of it growing up. This is just stuff that was innate within me and inherent in my upbringing to help others. And I think if we see more people who could do that, we could change the world in a second. I think that’s the thing that needs to change. Even if this talk, let’s inspires a couple more people to help. We’re closer to living in a world that has a fair life for everyone, and I think equality for all is over. We’re hoping for one day, of course.
HPA: What does advocacy mean to you?
RM: I feel like it’s being a voice and effective voice for change and using our voice to amplify the needs of those who otherwise might be ignored. So for me, when I saw girls were not getting equal access or quality access to education, I realized that I can amplify that need by speaking up about it because I actually really believe in the Sanskrit philosophy ‘the world is my family’. And the second you start looking at the world in this perspective, seeing that the world is your family, you realize that when you help others, you’re helping your own. So we don’t need to see the world as, ‘oh, the other vs. the other’, right? We need to see it as a collective and see that each person there is important is significant. We should be helping everyone come up. And I think when you see it from that perspective, you realize that as an advocate, you have power to make positive change because I think sometimes we look at advocacy and think of it with negative connotations too. But I think if you’re doing it right, you’re doing it for the right causes. It can go a long way and you can make that positive change by being that voice of change. So that’s how I perceive advocacy.
HPA: Why is advocacy important to you?
RM: So for me, I think it’s because we can be that catalyst for a change for that positive change in the world, and I really feel like we can all make a difference. I think many times we see things happening in the world and we can think to ourselves, ‘Oh, someone else will take care of it. We don’t need to take part. We don’t need to engage in this’. And I think that it’s so key to be the one to take that step, even if someone else is doing it. You can amplify and build to that structure. So if the foundation’s there, why not make it rise higher? The more voices we add to the conversation, the more diverse perspectives come in, the more opinions are out there, the more chance we have to reaching an effective solution that’s good for everyone involved and maybe we could solve a problem that otherwise might not have been solved. So I feel it’s important because you can change the world in a second just by contributing even a little idea. So for education with girls education, I think we see the statistics as girls don’t have access to barriers to them getting education. And I think if we can help students to make that change, even push even one girl ahead in life, I think we’re getting closer to a goal that otherwise would be neglected. And that’s why advocacy is essential. You need people who are willing to sacrifice their time. Sacrificed a lot of things towards helping other people. You can’t just look at it and sit back and relax and watch, I think you have to be working towards a cause.
HPA: So tell me about your personal philosophy on advocacy.
RM: In terms of my personal philosophy, I feel that if you’re going to be an advocate for any cause, it cannot be with any selfish or individual perspective in mind. You can’t say ‘I’m going to advocate for this because I will then get X Y Z accolades’, or ‘I’ll get the following things after’, you can’t be helping someone and want to gain yourself. My philosophy is that you should always be looking at how you can help others. How can we make this world a better place? How can we leave it better for others once we’re gone?
I think that you can’t ever call yourself an advocate if you really are doing that for any selfish purpose, you need to be an advocate if you want to help others, and if you know that you can actually help others come up. Because when you look at statistics for girls, for example, I think the rates are declining. And I think there is a statistic I read a long time ago that said that if you educate even 10 percent more girls, a country’s GDP rises by three percent. And that’s quite significant because when you look at the numbers, it might not sound like much when you just say three percent. But if you look at the national income that comes in, that’s very high. And right now I read in India, for example, they’re losing billions because girls are being withdrawn from school as people are suffering during this pandemic and has affected that the GDP. So I think that that’s what we have to keep in mind that help others.
I mentioned earlier that I believe in this philosophy of the world is my family. And when you think of it this way, you really feel like you need to help others. And that’s why I help others, because I see that I can make a difference and in any capacity. So not just girls’ education, if there’s any area I can help, I will do my best to help them out. So I think a few years back, we did. I was part of an anti-bullying gala, though, that we organized with the New York Giants in New York, and that raised $10,000 to help anti-bullying and we gave the funds to bullying.org. And I think these are amazing. I think it’s it’s great to be part of it cause it’s where you can make a difference and it’s nice to see that impact it can have. So all these little things are the minor things, in my opinion, because I feel like there’s a lot more to be done, but it’s nice to see these changes take place and to see that you can make a change. And when you see that it helps others, it’s great. So even for Infuse Foundation, I help them reach $10,000 in three days for them to become a vetted organization with the U.N. that money will fund pretty girls for their lifetime. So full tuition covers education covers, food, travel expenses, the full package for them and to us.
Advocacy also means listening. Listening to the cause. Listening to the needs that are out here. And it’s not necessarily physical or mental or anything, you have to listen and see. Where do I fit in? Where can I help?
HPA: Where are these girls located?
RM; There are arctually several bases within India. Very rural communities. So they were loving it. I think to them, it’s been a great change for them to see that they can get this education. They got the supplies and they follow up with them pretty often. So even right now, we’re trying to see if maybe we can organize another fundraiser for them and maybe do a talk. My passion is also an Indian classical dance, so I’m trying to combine this into one sort of dance fundraiser where I can perform, raise the funds and then donate to them because I think that right now, especially we’ve seen even Indian Dreams Foundation, the donations aren’t as strong because everyone’s having a tough time right now financially through the pandemic. So those are the struggles that we had to overcome to try to figure out how can we still encourage people to donate because there really are very grassroots organization that the one dollar you give that dollar goes all the way to them. And that’s something I was looking at, too, because many organizations these days, like they do take cuts from whatever amount is contributed. So I think that’s something that you want to try to get as much as you can over there because to them, that one dollar is a life changer over here. Sometimes we don’t really value the money that we have, so we don’t notice it’s worth and over there they value everything. So that’s why it makes such a difference.
HPA: So now you were telling me that you have your own law practice. Now how do you translate your advocacy to that?
RM: In terms of my law practice, I work more on intellectual property law and entertainment law, which is trademarks, copyrights, all these issues. So what I’m trying to do is to also support a lot of female driven organizations in any capacity I can help with. So actually, even with this, I volunteered at the Boys and Girls Club that was in Charlotte. And when I was in law school, I was based in Connecticut. Pre-pandemic my life was very different. I was bouncing between states, so I would be emceeing one day in, like California or New York and then back in Connecticut for law school in Massachusetts to see the parents back and forth, but it feels like a different world now. Now we live in this little like rectangular box and the only way you can see different places is to change your filter behind you. These days so far for the law firm, that’s where I’ve been trying to focus. I still try to partner up with these programs where women are being supported. So when I got my Wonder Woman Award, which is by The Malta House, they’re actually a very female driven organization that gives free medical care to individuals.
So even with that, I supported them after I got the award because I didn’t know much about the organization prior to getting this award. I was really excited when I was honoured as one of those seven women for that year because one another they had the women thing on and were just exceptional when going through these. I think when I get these awards, I’ve been introduced to so many women who are just changing the world. So one of the other women honorees was actually one of the first African-American sportscasters in the US. So you see that women can make these changes I also tried to connect to my law firm and I helped others, like the Connecticut Women’s Education League, and I tried to support organizations with my law firm in these ways to help women rise up as well. So I tried to do volunteer work and do pro-bono work writing contracts for some of these women organizations. And that’s something that I feel like. If I can help in these small ways, that’s what I’ve been trying to do.
HPA: So now share with me and our audience why it’s so important for people to incorporate a sense of advocacy into their lives like you have.
RM: I think when you’re an individual home, everyone has some cause they are passionate about. There’s something you see on TV. There’s something that will ignite this passion within you where you’re like, ‘You know, maybe I should be speaking towards this. Maybe I can help out. Maybe I can do something to make a difference’. And the analogy I really like to use is that when we look at a rainbow each individual colour on its own is so beautiful, but it’s a collective that totality is where the beauty lies. So similarly, I feel that each individual voice does have beauty, it does, have power behind it, if you combine forces, if you create this total world where everyone’s voices are being heard, we’re actually more effectively reaching a solution. We’re giving everyone a fair chance. And that’s why, as an advocate, if you’re at home and you’re wondering, should I be an advocate? Should I help towards a cause? The answer’s always yes because you’re contributing a voice that’s unique. Your perspective is different. We can ever say we all are thinking the same where there’s going to be at least one topic where we might disagree on how completely different perspectives.
So as an advocate, you should speak up. Don’t ever feel that you’re not going to make a difference. Let’s see. Even if your mindset matches someone else’s and you look, I didn’t even need to see anything. It was important for you to speak up to show that support, to show that, yes, there are similarities as well as differences. So that’s why we need to incorporate it in every stage. It doesn’t have to be a major organization, it doesn’t have to be a major cause, but advocate even for the little things that you see.
So, for example, when I was really little. I used to speak out if I saw something happen. I remember in one of my classrooms there was bullying taking place. I had seen this poor kid had actually just gotten brain surgery, and this is like in like third grade. So he had two stitches running across his forehead and everyone was like, ‘Oh, look, it’s Frankenstein, it’s Frankenstein’. All these negative things. So even then I spoke up. I actually told the teacher and a teacher had said at that time, I can’t really get involved too much in this because of the way this topic is. So I said, ‘no, actually, you should be. It was a sub we had. So [before] the sub wanted to teach, I just went to the front of the room and just kind of gave this a lecture to my classmates to say, you cannot bully someone. I was always willing to speak up the time.
That’s just what you can do in one moment does have these cascading effects that you might not see in that moment. Speaking of using our voice, we’re given the ability to talk so we can make a change, it’s how I see it. So if you have anything inside you, you need to say it and support others. We can tell what others are thinking unless they tell us. So sometimes we’re good at talking, but we also need to listen too. Advocacy also means listening. Well, listening to the cause. Listening to the needs that are out there. And it’s not necessarily physical or mental or anything you have to listen and see. Where do I fit in? Where can I help? And that’s why in every stage of your life, every aspect of your life, you can advocate for change so you can be an advocate in any area of life and you will make a difference. You might not see it immediately, but down the line, you can look back and say, if that moment did affect all these other paths, then you can open doors for people. So I think always be willing to put in that time and effort.
HPA: Now, along with advocacy comes activism and activism is the notion that by creating or tweeting a hashtag that’s also effective, giving the person an idea that they’re contributing to the cause by sharing the hashtag in your view, what are the pros and cons of activism?
RM: So I think these days, because we do live in this social media world, we do need people to continue to share topics through hashtags. It’s a great way to get awareness for a cause. It’s a great way to, even in many ways, brand it. So as an intellectual property attorney. I think my mindset often goes back to trademarking and copywriting and sometimes use hashtags really help the alignment with the brand and then that awareness gets out there. So but there are negatives as well I guess.We walk this very fine line when it comes to using hashtags. So when the ice bucket challenge came out, I think that it started out as this awareness campaign for ALS, and I think that was great when it started, but eventually got diluted into this random gag. People are doing to say, I’m going to tag my friends, make them for ice on themselves. And in many ways, the message got diluted at some point. So I think for slacktivism, the key is that as long as the branding and the original message does not get faded, I think it’s great when you’re using the hashtags, Yes, we can get publicity across an international platform. Everyone uses Instagram these days. We’re all aware of the term hashtags now because that’s just something that’s out there.
HPA: It’s amazing how it’s percolated into our vernacular.
RM: Now we just talk about it. It’s the hashtag this and the hashtag that. So we’re used to that. So it’s a great way to get awareness for your cause. And I think turn it viral in many ways to get the ideas you need for that cause. I think it’s only a pro if you’re able to retain that original brand messaging and you’re able to still associate the hashtag with that initial cause. Because if we have that still connected, then we can say, ‘OK, it was successful’. That’s a great aspect of using the hashtag to create awareness. But the second that message gets diluted have lost the power of the hashtag. So I think that’s where the con is. I think somehow there has to be a way to retain this, the message that began. So I think that’s where I see the con as being is that sometimes it just turns into a campaign where everyone knows it’s fun. Let’s just do this. But I think as long as that initial branding and that initial message stays, it’s a pro because it does get awareness because otherwise, these days, especially now in pandemic, we can’t do events or the public can come in and you can do charity events or charity galas and everything we used to do before the pandemic. So now we are reliant on social media as our message out loud. So yes, the hashtags are key. I think there’s the never going to go away saying, we’re going to be using this for a long time to come, so we need to use them correctly. And I think as an attorney, I think one thing I would also suggest is be careful of the branding, always to look it up. Make sure you’re not overlapping with someone else’s hashtag because things we associate the hashtag here thinking that this is great. It’s working for my message, but it might have been associated elsewhere. So always check that. Always make sure that the branding is correct and you’re using something that will help your cause, not harm it.
HPA: That’s a great tip, because you see so many hashtags where like one word is different and it’s for a completely different feeling.
RM: So, yeah, totally.
HPA: Now, what challenges have you had to overcome when it comes to voicing your support for a cause? It could be your own cause or it could be something else.
RM: So what I find really interesting is when I took on girls’ education as my cause, I just assumed that everyone will just be supporting this and I can tap into my friends circle to support it. Because, for example, when I did, “I Rise” by Agents of Harmony so that actually came through through my media contacts. So whenever I have done anything, whether it’s my pageantry, media work, law, I always think, ‘how can I use this to actually help any cause and actually help others as well?’, because their connections there that you don’t realize could aid you until a later point. I receive friendships that are women’s friendships. I don’t think of a friendship with this person as, ‘Oh, this is useful’. So with “I Rise”, which took place through my media work, with a singer based in India, who’s always ready, just a very nice guy. And he introduced me to this music composer, who is actually a world record holder for music production.
So we connected, and I had this very clear mindset. I wanted to women-centric power anthem. And I was like, This has to be done somehow, and we need to get this out there. When I started as a Girl Rising Ambassador I wanted to do a unique fundraiser, I don’t want to fall in line with everything else out there. So that was something I had tapped into and I had that support. So “I Rise” came out and posted it on my Facebook page. And I was selling it for two dollars. So all the money would go to charity because this is for girls’ education, only a couple of my friends supported it. So the the the obstacle that I didn’t see was that friends would not want to support simply because the jealous notions that exist that we don’t see as existing. So they thought by contributing to this, Oh, it’ll bring me up, and I wasn’t doing this for myself. This wasn’t an individual gain. I was doing this for the girls and specifically said all of this money will be going to girls’ education. So there are few people who support it instantly. One of my pageant directors, the second she found out about it, took out her phone quickly, just ordered it online, said, ‘Done! There you go! All set!’ So there is support there.
But it was very surprising to see that there wasn’t the support I expected from within my circle. So the support came from outside my circle and through the platform which was CD Baby dot com. They had radio play for it. And that’s where the actual funds came from, completely outside of my circle. And one girl who actually had heard the track had messaged me online to say that she was actually contemplating suicide that day. She said, then your song played on the radio, and she said it gave me the strength I needed to not go to the steps, and I realized I could make a change.
So I was looking at this and I was thinking to myself, ‘it’s helping others’. It’s making a change with those that were close to me who I expected would just say, ‘Here you go, yes, I will support your track. This is where it should go’. I didn’t see that this obstacle existed, but I think that luckily there are means to always get around these obstacles, and I think that’s key. So in terms of the obstacles that was a local one that I didn’t see. But when we look at girls’ education itself, I see those obstacles are still existing for them in the rural communities here. I’m growing up pretty much I feel like and privileged in the U.S. are, yes, we do see these pocket instances of discrimination against women and girls in education. But there are those obstacles are just still so high they have too many barriers to access. So even right now, if a family has a choice, whether they want to educate their son or the daughter, they’re still choosing the son because they still see it as a son staying within their family. They see girls as going to another family, but they don’t see that that girl is going to then change the world. She will be having children. She will be contributing to this world, carrying forward a family. They don’t see these and those other barriers that I think exist in these rural communities.
And even now, I think I read a statistic that during COVID, they’re actually the numbers for girls. Getting education has declined. And in these communities, there’s still a paternalistic mindset. We still see that, they still think men are the ones making the change and they don’t see the contribution women are making. Meanwhile, here in one of my law classes, actually, the professor said, ‘if you sit down and put a financial amount next to everything your mom does during the day, everything the woman is doing in the day far exceed the amount that’s coming in through the the male side’. So it’s a very curious perspective. I hadn’t really thought of it that way until I said, Oh, put a number next to it and you’ll see. So these are things I think we need to try to break down. I think there’s still this cultural mindset that women can’t make as much of a change as they can, and we just had a look aroujnd to see examples.
So even here, I look at you and I see the change that you’ve made, the difference you’re making. And that’s something that I think people shouldn’t forget. So yes, obstacles still exist. And for me, I was surprised that it was in terms of support is were the obstacle was existing. And luckily, my parents, my family supported me, but I did expect more from my circle. I think we need to realize that everyone can rise together. So if someone is succeeding and doing well, that’s fine. We don’t need to worry about that. We need to realize that everyone is coming up. Everyone has their own journey. Everyone has their own path. And sometimes I think we’re correct in saying, Oh, this person’s doing, it’s I won’t support but support the cause. Look at the cause and not the individual. I think that’s a better way of looking at it because we need all the voices to come out and support.
HPA: So I need to ask you though, like what have you had any resistance from the South Asian community specifically? Is that who you’re referring to?
RM: I don’t know. These are just friends in general who just didn’t support anything. This is sometimes what was interesting is some of them wrote to me to be like, ‘Oh, who did you contact? How did you do with this song?’ How do I do the song without even saying, let me contribute and help you out? And then if I didn’t reply, I’m usually there to actually unfriend it too, because so I was like, this is really interesting to see how it’s like. Some people just try to steal the context.
I saw a lot of ads for our mission, all these people who are helping out. And then obviously, those friendships don’t stay as much in terms of seeing what’s happening, because I think that for me, this song was something that I thought would be a great way to both empower women because it’s a very strong like women empowerment theme that I had written. And I would call this a good way to get funds for women in India because it was only two dollars, so it was one dollar on iTunes that sucked. All those platforms were the same Spotify, etc. It’s the general rate on CD. Thinking it’ll be enough to get more funds towards the girls because all these platforms take cuts from any sale. So I thought that the more we can do, the more we can get funds over to the girls and the South Asian community overall. I think I’ve never faced any resistance from them for anything I do. They’ve and I’ve been lucky that the community have in New York, New Jersey become like family.
The South Asian media community has been excellent. I’ve been so blessed to have hosted for channels like Zee TV and all these like top channels, TV Asia, all of these, and I think they’re always ready to support. Even if I were to do anything, they’ll be quick to publish it or write about it in all these publications. Even when I was honored by the White House they were able to do. But I think the South Asian community still, I think, still sees women not as capable as men. So I remember [with] emceeing gigs, if I’m the female emcee and the only one there, they’ll be like, we should get a male emcee to accompany her. If it’s a male M.C., we never see them saying we need a female emcee to accompany them. So these are the little things that exist still within our community. So I wouldn’t me that so much resistance. But I think it’s the mindset is still there. It’s still inherent, that if there’s a female emcee, she might not be able to do the job the male does.
So the South Asian community itself, I think overall, we still need to work towards acknowledging that girls are still capable. I mean, even if you look at deejays, there aren’t as many female deejays as male, but some of the female issues are just leading the pack. They’re making change. Like DJ Rekha comes to mind immediately. And to see those the sort of advocacy they do, the the changes are able to make. So I think that’s something that’s been there. And I think as I’m seen in the rural communities, there’s still this paternalistic mindset that still dominates and that’s something I can break down culturally. And for me, I’ve been very, very blessed that my parents are just supportive and sort of saying, my dad is someone who is very proud of everything his girl is doing. He said that girls need to come up in the world, and that’s something that I was lucky to grow up with that mindset. So I just grew up thinking I can do whatever I can. I was like a tomboy. If you like growing up because of the way my. So it’s not like we were doing traditional roles that we think of for girls, we were doing other things, and I always just saw the world gender less in a way than and I think it wasn’t. And even in terms of racism, all these other things, I wasn’t exposed to that. Luckily, I grew up in a town where we were the only Indian family for generations, for years and still there is no racism. I think that’s I grew up +2. I think to see the world as just a total unit instead of broken down, and that made us change. So no, in terms of resistance, South Asian community has actually been pretty supportive, except for minor things here and there.
HPA: Now we are at the end of our show, but I cannot leave without asking you this really important question how do you get people to actually action their advocacy really quickly? Let me know your thoughts.
RM: Very quick. So I would just say that they do not think that you can make a difference. I started finding organizations that match your interests. You can do all this. You can look it up. Reach out to them directly. Say to them, How can I help you? What areas do you need help in? I think that you can make a game plan. Write out what you want to help with. You can always look up organizations. Everything’s accessible these days. Cell phone numbers out there, contacts are there. Reach out to friends for help in causes in case you could eat them as well and don’t feel that you can’t make a difference. As I said before, it takes only one person to make a change and really believe in that mindset that one person can make a difference and you could be that person. So I don’t think we should always sit that don’t act, that don’t feel that you won’t make a change. You can make that change where you had to take steps to do it. So excellent, even if it’s something small. Like we said earlier, if you can share a hashtag for a cause that you’re interested in, that’s at least a start. So at least begin somewhere.
HPA: Perfect. Thank you, Roopa. Thank you so much for being and being a guest on The ANOKHI UNCENSORED Show and congratulations for being part of The ANOKHI ADVOCATE List 2021.
RM: Thank you so, so much. I think I’ve been so very blessed to be part of this initiative, and I think you guys have done a great job curating this and working hard to showcase what people are doing around the world, and I think ANOKHI will always stay ANOKHI. There’s not going to be another publication media site like this that’s as unique and as supportive of the South Asian community for so many years. So thank you.
Photos Courtesy Of Roopa Modha