by Bianca Ghose
June 8th, 2015

Weber Shandwick believes it has a responsibility, and a commitment, to give – our time, our skills, our support, our passion – in ways that can make a difference in the community we do business in. We do it all year round by supporting programs on issues that are vital to a sustainable future.

As part of our commitment to gender equality, Weber Shandwick India is honoured to support Daughters of Mother India, a 2015 Indian documentary film that has won the National Award – the country’s highest film honour bestowed by the President of India, for “Best Film on Social Issues”.

Violence against women, particularly sexual violence, is an often documented reality in India. Unequal inheritance laws and women’s economic dependence on men, biased cultural norms and judicial practices often deny women dignity, protection and justice. In 2012, several grotesque incidents of sexual assault had sparked rage and national debate in India. The turning point for public consciousness was in the month of December, when a 23 year-old student from New Delhi, often called Nirbhaya or “the fearless one”, was gang-raped on a bus and left naked on the side of a road to die of her injuries.

Nirbhaya’s assault in 2012 has triggered many debates, and positive reformist measures as well. Directed and produced by Vibha Bakshi and produced by Academy Award-Winner MaryAnn De Leo, Daughters of Mother India is a story filled with resolve, activism and hope. Bakshi says, “My goal was to make a responsible movie that did not sensationalize the issue of gender violence.”

Bakshi’s documentary is representative of India’s side of Nirbhaya’s story. The film highlights the complexity of the Indian society, and showcases the radical changes being made in the Police, the judiciary and community groups since that attack. “We are not a country of rapists and we didn’t make the film with that hypothesis in mind,” says Bakshi.

On the surface, the narrative revolves around a series of sound bites from sociologists, victims’ advocates and senior law enforcement officials reacting to Nirbhaya’s rape. But here’s where Bakshi’s documentary does more. It captures on film, for the first time ever, how trained law enforcement officers are literally wearing the hats of gender violence advocates. For the first time in the history of the Police force, the Police Commissioner of Delhi granted permission for a camera to be allowed inside the Delhi Police Control and Command room, where we see women police officers taking calls specifically from victims of rape, sexual assault and domestic violence because of the drastic increase in the number of women coming forward in the wake of the Nirbhaya attack.

Weber Shandwick believes Daughters of Mother India is more than a documentary. It is a movement – to dispel the myth that India is the world’s rape capital, to catalyse public opinion against passive pontification on sexual attacks, into actually helping a woman in need, the documentary is a showcase of the society and law enforcement coalescing to bring in a safer society. If gender violence laws are now stricter, police more vigilant and activist groups more vocal, the world needs to see that and join hands to multiple that positive effect – that is the movement through the documentary that Weber Shandwick supports.

Valerie Pinto, CEO, Weber Shandwick India says, “We believe in the change that Vibha Bakshi sees in the Indian psyche and law enforcement around women’s security in India. By supporting Daughters of Mother India, we hope to help create a successful movement that will mobilise the people in India and sensitise the rest of the world.”

Bakshi has also created a police campaign to bridge the gap between the public and the police – public service announcements (PSAs) featuring a dozen or so policemen and women, all of whom investigated some of the most brutal incidents of sexual assault in Mumbai over the past two years. These PSAs will start broadcasting in movie theaters all over India before feature films.

The movement is being advocated by many influencers, notable among them being His Eminence Cardinal Oswald Garcias, lawyer and activist Flavia Agnes, Ex-Commissioner of Police Neeraj Kumar amongst others. The movement is also being supported across national and international media. You can read the Huffington Post article, here. And the Hindustan Times report, here.

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