Meghalaya women send powerful message through music


By Aparmita Das | SHILLONG:

'Beti Bachao Beti Padhao' meaning 'Save Girl Child, Educate Girl Child' is a campaign of the Government of India that aims to ensure survival and protection of girl child and improve the efficiency of welfare services intended for girls in the country.

The office of the District Commissioner of Ri Bhoi district in Meghalaya came up with an innovative initiative of spreading awareness regarding the campaign through a song called “Wat”.

Written and performed by Pynsuk Syiemiong and Meba Ofilia (also featuring Kyntiewlin Mawphniang), the music video was directed by Dalariti Nongpiur and Wallam Kupar Lyngba and the song was produced by Fraape, Imti Kharkongor and Kit Shangpliang.

The song is a part of the 'Wat' series of Ri Bhoi chapter of the ‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao’ campaign and is the theme of this movement. “Wat” is a Khasi word that simply means “Don’t”. The song revolves around heavy topics relating to the importance of education and the fight against the sexual abuse of girls.

According to the singers, “This song is about triggering the kind of emotional support that a girl needs. We want people to start addressing issues like teenage pregnancy, incomplete education and child sexual abuse”.

Speaking to TNT-The Northeast Today, Director Dalariti described the song as a powerful message of "bridging the gender gap" and, addressing issues such as sexual abuse and teenage pregnancy that are generally swept under the carpet. She said, “We only wanted to start this important conversation. We wanted to tell young girls that there is so much more to life and, the root to that is education”.

The song begins with a girl on a bicycle taking a tour of Ri Bhoi and encountering girls excelling in different fields. As she begins her trip, she sees young girls playing with a kitchen set that is chosen to be stereotypically feminine and is the typical imagery that we have of young girls. But in no time, the scene shifts to Umiam, where young girls are shown dancing, this is followed by a girl playing the guitar and singing.

Umsning Block Champion, Lawana Diengdoh

Moving on to Umden-Diwon, the recently- declared as Silk villages of the State, the scenario depicts the evolution of cultural practice into viable source of income. “We had stereotyped women to weave but now weaving has evolved commercially and they are becoming independent because of the knowledge they have imbibed from their ancestors. Women are now becoming independent entrepreneurs. So, the next girl in the video is shown weaving,” Dalariti added.

Umsning Block Champion, Darihun Lapang

The rap part, sung by Meba Ofilia, talks about sexual abuse and highlights the POCSO (The Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses) act. POCSO, enacted in 2012, is a special law to protect children. The face of this part of the video is Darihun Lapang, a kickboxer from Umsning, Ri Bhoi. “It does not encourage girls to get into a physical fight but it empowers them to raise their voice against sexual abuse by simply speaking up and Breaking the Silence,” Dalariti clarified.

The video also features female footballers and a scholar. This was to convey two important messages, one would be breaking the stereotype that football is a male-driven sport and also stresses that women’s football needs to be promoted equally, and the second is “Beti Padhao”.

The song was released online on the occasion of International Women's Day (IWD) on March 8 and, the theme perfectly fits the campaign theme of IWD 2021, which is #ChooseToChallenge.

Director Dalariti could not have taken the challenge better. She said, “Music video is not really my genre, but this one I definitely had to take up. ‘Choose to Challenge’ right?"

Dalariti with her team from Ink Creative Consultancy and the Umling Block BBBP champion, Da-i-Lamanbha

Also Read: Shillong's Hashtag café sends strong message to all women entrepreneurs

The girls featured in the video are local champions of “Tyngkai ki khun kynthei; Pynpule ki khun Kynthei” or Beti Bachao Beti Padhao. Darihun, Lawana, Elbidris represented Umsning Block, Imanbha and Da-i-Lamanbha represented Umling Block, Teilarympei represented Bhoirymbong block, and Markynti and Josiphine represented Jirang Block. They are the chosen icons of the district who have excelled in their certain fields, such as art, music, education, sports, etc.

Dapalei Stacy Warjri, the first Zumba trainer from Meghalaya choreographed the dance video. The director, over and again, mentioned that she was chosen for her ability to always express the meaning of the lyrics with precision through dance movements.

Speaking to TNT, Dapalei said, “It was an honour and a privilege to have had the chance to choreograph such a strong and powerful song”. According to her, the silent scream that women have been screaming for so long has finally been expressed in the song and, she wishes and prays for this inspiring song to reach millions of helpless women who are fighting their way out of something or the other. “It is definitely time to rise,” said Dapalei.

TNT-The Northeast Today also spoke to the District Commissioner of Ri Bhoi district, RM Kurbah. She is an inspirational personality and one of the main pillars of the campaign.

Speaking to TNT, she said, “There are certain issues which pertain to Ri Bhoi, like the safety of the girl child which is associated with a high rate of teenage pregnancy and POCSO cases. These drove us to find out a way to educate and create awareness and we felt that a music video could be effective and have a huge impact on common people.”

Kurbah mentioned that since the implementation of the programme in the district, there has been an improvement in the number of girls going to school over the years. She said, “Most children drop out because of economic situation at home but, now we are encouraging development of skills such as weaving and because Ri Bhoi is a fertile district, we are also providing training in agriculture”.

The sole motive of the music video was to create awareness. The DC also stressed that parents need to educate their children about “good touch and bad touch”. “Home is considered to be the haven for children but there are many cases when the perpetrator is someone from home itself. So, this is where education and awareness come into the picture. The major problem is that these are topics that people generally do not talk about and this is why we are trying to address these issues and educating not just young girls but boys too about the difference between right and wrong. We have a long way to go but, we have started with a small initiative and hopefully, someday everything will fall into place.” said RM Kurbah.

She also discussed issues like child marriage and emphasised on the importance of marrying only after one has attained the right age (Girls, at/after the age of 18 and boys, at/after the age of 21) according to the law. She said, “When children attain the age of 15 or 16, parents tend to feel that their children are ready to get married, but my message to them and their children would be that things are not the same as before. One needs to be economically independent. When a woman is financially independent, it is then that she is considered to be empowered. An economically and financially independent person will have a better perspective of life and provide better support to their children.”

The music video is a journey around Ri Bhoi district of Meghalaya, showing the status of girls there, and how they are not stuck in the "kitchen". The song gives a very strong message of Freedom and Success. It shows that girls can do and achieve so much more, provided their wings are not shackled and they are allowed to fly.