Indian Ladies in the UK (ILUK) — the United Kingdom’s (UK) largest Indian community group — has planned a colourful personal welcome for Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his visit to the UK later this month.
The Prime Minister’s visit for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) coincides with the arrival of spring in England and members of the ILUK will bring out the vibrant colours of the season for Modi’s benefit with a ‘Flash Mob’ at 10 Downing Street.
According to a statement, dozens of Indian women resplendent in colourful sarees will present a series of dance performances for the Prime Minister in the heart of the British political establishment.
The women will call on the Prime Minister to carry a message from ILUK to India — one of ‘Educate the Boy Child to save the Girl Child’ and a collection of hand-written messages from Indian women living across the UK in a ‘Treasure Box’ to be presented to Modi.
For the message to reach India, the group plans to get the slogan #BetaPadhaoBetiBachao trending during the Prime Minister’s visit and carry around the UK the box called #WomanKiBaat in a specially adapted van #ChaltiKaNaamModi.
The box will describe the hopes, dreams and fears of Indian women across the UK about their India.
The rallying cry of ‘Beta Padhao, Beti Bachao’ is an extension of the Modi government’s widely promoted multi-million dollar ‘Beti Bachao’ initiative, which aims to improve the education, welfare and well-being of girls in India.
While the ‘Beti Bachao’ movement is multi-faceted, ILUK aims to promote the message that the most important factor in improving the circumstances of the girl child is to educate their male siblings, friends and peers not only on vital issues like equality and empathy but apparently “taboo” subjects such as female menstrual and reproduction health.
“India is the most dynamic and most talked-about country in the world right now. There is so much hope and potential for the future of our country. And yet, the global discourse about India is dominated by stories of oppression against women and minorities. We believe the only way to change that conversation is by promoting education, specifically the education of our boys,” said Poonam Joshi, the founder and executive director of ILUK.
“As a mother of three boys, there is no greater duty for me than to educate my sons not just to have amazing jobs in the future but to respect and empathise with their female counterparts. I was born and raised in India so I understand the inequality that has become second nature for us — not just on the part of men but the women who turn a blind eye to inequality,” she said.
Joshi maintained that inequality against women has to stop and the only way to stop is take initiative at homes.
“It is imperative for all of India’s mothers, grandmothers, aunts, sisters to stop passing on the stigma of inequality and injustice to our boys and start educating them from when they are toddlers that a better world is possible if they treat their female counterparts with generosity, empathy and equality.”
The ILUK during the Prime Minister’s visit to Britain in 2015 presented him a gargantuan blanket — the ‘Unity in Diversity’ blanket made up of 3500 individual crochet squares handcrafted by the group’s members which at the time comprised about 5,000 members.
The group in 2018 boasts more than 26,000 first generation migrant Indian women representing all walks of life and hailing from all corners of the Indian sub-continent.
What began as a social network for newly arrived migrant women has today grown to a major not-for-profit organisation that helps victims of domestic violence, child abandonment and dowry abuse in the UK.
The group also helps promote awareness of Indian culture in the UK and aims to help shape a progressive future for India, the cornerstone of which is gender equality, the ILUK members believe.
The ILUK’s flash mob will coincide with demonstrations spearheaded by Labour peer Lord Nazir as well as one calling for an independent “Khalistan” in Punjab.
“As these individuals plan to demonstrate to call for separation and divisiveness, I think it’s important for Indian women to lead a charge calling for inclusivity. We want to celebrate the ‘UNITY IN DIVERSITY’ of India — which is ILUK’s own motto and which is India’s great strength,” Joshi said.
#WomanKiBaat is an allusion to the Prime Minister’s immensely popular weekly radio address ‘Maan Ki Baat’ in which he details his policy initiatives to fellow countrymen.
The address is inspired by the likes of the great American president Franklin D Roosevelt, whose ‘Fireside Chats’ helped quell rumours and explain his policies on everything from the Great Depression to the Second World War.
“We want to let Modi know that we are proud of his achievements thus far. India, given its vast divergence, is not an easy land to lead but we believe that he has done his very best and has made the most of a difficult position. We want him to know that we look upon him to ensure our safety not just in India but also when we are in a foreign land,” she said.
“The ILUK has led the way in raising awareness of issues that affect NRI women and there have been a number of new policies that have been introduced in recent months on issues such as spousal abandonment and that has given us hope to continue fighting,” the ILUK founder said.