She is the daughter of superstar Rajinikanth and the wife of actor Dhanush.
But Aishwaryaa Rajinikanth Dhanush has carved an identity of her own as a director in Tamil cinema and now she takes on the role of UN Women’s Advocate for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment in India. In an exclsuive conversation with Firstpost, Aishwaryaa spoke about her new role, women’s issues and more.
Did you expect to be named as of UN Women’s Advocate for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment in India?
I didn’t expect this to happen though they had been in touch. This is definitely a great honour and a very pleasant surprise. It’s a big responsibility and I feel extremely happy that the UN Women felt that I would be able to fulfill this role. It’s overwhelming.
With regard to gender equality in India, where do you think women stand today?
I would say things are better for women now than they were a decade ago. Women today are bold about what they want to express and what they feel. I think we are getting there. By 2030, we should be able to achieve gender equality. It’s also important to make women understand that we don’t need to fight but we need to be visible. The truth is that in ancient times, women used to fight wars and be on par with men, but times changed. We will get back to that era where men and women will be equal.
But men also have to see women as equals.
I think there is some fear instilled in men today that women today will voice any injustices. I think the biggest issue women have today is fear of voicing what they are going through — we need to break that fear. There are a lot of women who are struggling but afraid to tell people what they are going through. If we work on that there will be a lot more change.
In India, there is a lot of talk of women’s empowerment. What’s your take on that?
I think women are born empowered — we don’t need to talk about empowerment. We should come out of our shells and stop the escapist attitude. We think ‘okay, let’s just get through this day’ but we need to start thinking of the future. We need a lifestyle change and a change in attitude. For mothers like me who have sons, we need to talk to them. They are the future and I would love to have a son who treats his wife — or even me for that matter — the way I would like to be treated. It’s important that we educate them and this can’t be done though lectures. You need to teach them that it is a way of life and what you teach you teach them will stay with them forever. This is what we need to work on.
India is a male-dominated society.
Yes, India is a male-dominated society but we are breaking our shackles. I think one of the biggest recent achievements is that all the Olympic winners this time have been girls! And we all feel so proud. And what they have achieved is not easy with the kind of infrastructure we have here — they have proved themselves in Rio. They are an inspiration to women in India today. I think we should do that in every field.
Do you see any specific issues that women in India face today that need to be tackled urgently?
There is no one issue which more important than the other — I think all issues like female infanticide, child marriage, dowry harassment, abuse of women — have to be addressed with equal importance. I feel that women should absolutely not tolerate verbal abuse and physical abuse. People are raising their voice against physical abuse of women. I feel women should first stand up against verbal abuse — it starts scarring women without their knowledge and they begin to think that that’s how they should be treated. In the long run, it works on their psyche and causes insecurities, confidence, etc.
You hear so many stories of women being attacked and raped in the country. How important is safety of women?
We are now aware of the issue of safety for women and women should start to fight and ask for safety measures. The fact that we say India is unsafe has created awareness but what do we do about this? How are going to make it a safer place? That is the next step.
As UN Women’s Advocate, what are the next steps for you?
I will start to work on spreading awareness about gender equality and women’s empowerment. Being in the entertainment industry and a media personality, I’d like to exploit the position I am in to create awareness.
Dhanush was with you at the event honouring you.
He was very proud and I am so happy that people like him stand to encourage women. There are a lot of youngsters who follow him and look at him as an inspiration and somewhere, if this makes a difference, I think it would work in the long run.
What did your dad (Rajinikanth) say about this honour?
Obviously he’s extremely proud [smiles]. The fact that I am talking about this and standing where I stand means that the men in my family have been very supportive and encouraging. I think it’s great that they are indirectly extending support through me. I think that will go a long way!