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Women In Media More Powerful Than Men, Says Vivek Oberoi

One of the representatives of the film industry who is also involved with social entrepreneurship, Vivek Oberoi opens up in a conversation with BW’s Chahat Jain and Ruhail Amin, about the winds of change sweeping the corporates, media, and, of course, the film world

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The discourse over women’s empowerment often finds an echo in Bollywood. One of the representatives of the film industry who is also involved with social entrepreneurship, Vivek Oberoi opens up in a conversation with BW’s Chahat Jain and Ruhail Amin, about the winds of change sweeping the corporates, media, and, of course, the film world. 

Excerpts:

How can celebrities leverage their clout to make a difference and contribute to social development?
We have to look beyond mere material pursuits. Celebrities can do more by leveraging their influence and set positive examples.

When we talk about gender equality and equal opportunities, do you think Corporate India has implemented this well?
There are many women leaders in the Indian corporate sector today and increasingly we are seeing instances where women are taking up key roles. There is no doubt that more can be done but it is heartening to see greater representation of women in corporate leadership than ever before.

What do you think of women’s empowerment?

Why shouldn’t empowerment be something they are born with? I think that’s the question, that’s what matters today and that’s what needs to be addressed. Sensitivity to issues like rape is only limited to rants on various media these days and I think that needs to change. And that basically reflects a mindset. When we work with children who are victims of rape or child abuse, there is a tendency in them to blame themselves. They feel like there’s something they did that has made this happen and sometimes the victim ends up feeling guilty as to what’s happened to them and that’s wrong. A mindset change is needed.

Bollywood is known for giving women characters wings. But it is also known for something as pernicious as casting couch. How difficult do you think it is to be a woman today?
The incredible change in the media industry in the last 15 years points to the empowerment of women. I would go on to say that there are more popular women faces today than men in the media. When I started doing projects like Inside Edge for example, I insisted that my female co-star is billed above me, whatever the hierarchy may be. This was primarily to create awareness.

You have been a social entrepreneur. How do you look at social change?
Trying to empower women is incredible. One of the companies I own, Vidyut, is an electrical auto company. What we do is, because it’s easier to operate, we train women drivers and this breaks the mindset of the people who have never been on any vehicle driven by a woman. It generates a net revenue of Rs 15,000-20,000 for the women drivers and that amount of economic empowerment is incredible.

Tell us more about your social entrepreneurship ventures…
We have provided affordable homes to over 3,000 slum dwellers.  We are also actively working in the area of women and child rights and have undertaken a lot of initiatives. We are planning to expand such socially relevant initiatives to more regions in the country. It is my commitment to raise awareness about issues that require immediate care, especially in sectors like healthcare, girl child rights and education.

When you look back do you regret anything?
I believe each of us arrives at the crossroads in our lives and sometimes we have to take a decision which could lead us into existential crisis, especially when you are trying to stand up for what you are. There was a time in my career when I hit a low and had a bout of depression too, but social entrepreneurship gave me a new direction to bounce back and make a difference. It was my mother who encouraged me to participate in such activities and I have never felt more satisfied with my work than what I feel now, there is nothing to regret.


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