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1 Billion Steps: Here’s Why One Woman Will Walk from Kanyakumari to Kashmir

“The crossbow is a very silent but powerful weapon”

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Being an armchair critic has become something that many of us do with great ease. But how many of us get off our chairs and take a step towards change?

Srishti Bakshi, who has taken that first step and so many more, describes herself rather interestingly. She says, “I am not an athlete and not from the social developmental sector.”

Maybe so, but Srishti is the brain behind ‘Project Crossbow’.

Srishti Bakshi, a ‘Champion for Change’ with the United Nations Empower Women initiative, will be walking 3,800 kilometers from Kanyakumari, Tamil Nadu to Srinagar, Kashmir to sensitise citizens about violence against women and help them fight it through financial and digital literacy.

She says, “Each day we will be covering anywhere between 25 to 30 kilometers. It is going to a be physically grueling for me.”

Srishti Bakshi

While this all sounds grand, Srishti explains how planning this entire walk has been a ‘logistical nightmare’. There are walls in Srishti’s house lined with huge maps of India, crisscrossed with threads running through the various places she intends to stop at.

“My father is from the defence background and he isn’t one to let things to chance. Anything that can be planned will be planned.”

Inception of Crossbow

Throughout the time she was working, there were many trigger points that kept nudging Srishti towards trying to make a difference.

In her first job, with India Today, she was working on a magazine idea featuring ‘Real Women’. She mentions how difficult it was for her to pitch this magazine to big brands. No one seemed interested to involve themselves with it.

A dinner table conversation with a couple of non-Indian friends deeply impacted Srishti. She says, “After the initial exclamation and excitement about learning I am from India, I was asked why women in India get raped. It is a very uncomfortable conversation to have. My first instinct was to defend India and urge them not to generalise. While I did that it did leave a very bitter taste in my mouth.”

This was yet another trigger that made Srishti want to make a difference.

The tipping point however was the Highway 91 or Bulandshahr rape case. Srishti talks about how on several occasions her mother; sister and she have taken that very route to go from Dehradun to Delhi. “The thought of the horror that the family would have gone through was what shook me. Speaking to my friends and family didn’t help me.”

“Either I was told that it’s too painful so lets not talk about it or that this happens and there is nothing much we can do. That was the day I decided to make a difference.”

Team Crossbow

This feeling of ‘helplessness’ is what pushed Srishti into starting her organisation – ‘Crossbow’. When asked how the organisation was christened, she shares, “The crossbow is a very silent but powerful weapon. I have never looked at myself as an activist. Having said that, I do want to make a difference. To hit the bull’s eye one needs patience, precision, and pull. For me the pull is all the people who have come together to make this happen, patience to see it through and precision is what will lead me to my end goal.”

A story of how getting women online changes them

The best part about getting onto the Internet is that you don’t need any qualifications for it. All you need is a smart phone with a reasonably good connection. “A chance encounter with a woman in Hong Kong provided the spark. This woman, originally from West Bengal was married at the age of 14 and had her first child at 16. While her husband wasn’t physically abusive, he would just torture her. To escape this reality she sought work with an agent. The agent promptly shipped her off to Hong Kong. Believeing that she was being sold to someone, she still went along with it, just to leave the country.”

What worked well for her was that her employer was a kind person. She was given a phone for her personal use and while initially she did not even want it, it soon became her personal tutor. Not knowing how to use many of the kitchen appliances, she approached her employer to understand them. He directed her to YouTube and urged her to learn whatever there is from there.

“Over the next three years, this lady devoured all the baking and cooking videos online and is today one of the most sought after home-cooks in Hong Kong. Her earnings are to the tune of almost Rs. 6 lakhs a month.”

These are the stories that propelled Srishti to take her project forward.

What Srishti intends to do with her organisation:

1. Conduct workshops to empower women financially and impart digital literacy.
2. Build an extensive volunteer network of change-makers on the ground who will take this forward.
3. Document stories via a documentary feature film.

The idea is to bring together like-minded people and harnessing the power of the Internet to provide a gateway for women to empower themselves.

Empowering people as she marches ahead

Here’s how you can lend your support:

‘Project Crossbow’ offers us an opportunity to join the movement. You can be a virtual hiker and each step you take gets credited to team Crossbow. So you can pledge your support to this cause, ensuring that Srishti and her team reaches their target of clocking in 1 billion steps in 260 days.

For more details visit their website here.

You can help Team Crossbow by contributing here.

Photo credits: Vibhor Yadav

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