Fearless Girls at Wall Street and Lal Kuan. Photo on the left © Shinya Suzuki on Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0). Photo on the right © Salini Sharma.

INDIA: The Fearless Girl of Delhi

The popular statue in New York reminds ElsaMarie D'Silva of a real life Fearless Girl who used art to stand up to harassment.

I looked at her expression and it resonated with my own self-belief.  

The Fearless Girl statue, only four feet tall, stands defiantly at Bowling Green, near the New York Stock Exchange. There, she stares down the famous 7,000 pound Wall Street Charging Bull—a symbol of America’s strength and prosperity.

Since Fearless Girl was installed in early March, the contrasting yet powerful image of these two structures has captured imaginations. Much of the media is raving about the statue; people are posting pictures on social media; young girls are proudly imitating the fearless pose.

"Fearless Girl shows us that the might of a charging bull, and that which it symbolizes, can be easily matched with the determination and defiance of young women," says New York State Assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou in a letter insisting that the statue—commisioned through April—become permanent.

I decided to visit this statue myself while I was on a work trip in New York. On a very cold but sunny day, I managed to take a picture of the girl without being bombarded by tourists. I looked at her expression and it resonated with my own self-belief. It also reminded me of Sunita*, a 13-year-old girl in New Delhi whose picture I often use to show how a young girl can lead change.

Sunita is from Lal Kuan, a low-income neighborhood in New Delhi, the capital city of India. In 2014, my organization Safecity ran a campaign in her neighborhood with the local Gender Resource Centre to map sexual violence in public spaces. We encouraged women and girls to share their personal stories, which we then put on a map to identify location-based trends. One of the hotspots we found when analyzing the data was near a tea stall on a busy main road.

Sunita, along with other girls and women, reported that men would loiter around this tea stall while having their tea. The men would intimidate them with their constant male gaze. Rather than confront the men, which is difficult to do in a highly patriarchal culture, the girls and women would change their routine, divert to a different route, and some of the girls even dropped out of school. When we asked the young girls what they would like to change in their neighborhood, they said they would like the staring to stop.

Photo of mural in Lal Kuan

In December 2014, we organized an art workshop for Sunita and her friends in collaboration with the Fearless Collective—a group that uses art to speak out against gender violence. The girls painted a wall mural next to the tea stall. The mural featured staring eyes along with messages in Hindi and English that read, “Look with your heart, not with your eyes”; “We won’t be intimidated by your gaze”; “We will raise our voice”; “Stand up, Speak up.”

Art can raise collective consciousness, address difficult topics, and bring about local change. In Niou’s letter about the Fearless Girl, she says the statue in New York ignites a critical conversation and begins a discussion. That’s exactly what is happening with the mural of staring eyes in Delhi.

In a society where it is difficult to confront a man directly and voice concerns, this wall mural speaks for girls and women. Since the mural was painted, the loitering and staring have stopped because it is no longer acceptable. One of the tea stall owners says that when men now loiter, he points to the mural and asks them to move on.

As the painting was in progress, one of my team members took a picture of Sunita. In the picture, she looks so confident and empowered to stand up for herself.

Like the Fearless Girl statue, Sunita gives me hope.

*Names have been changed.


STORY AWARDS

This story was published as part of the World Pulse Story Awards program. We believe everyone has a story to share, and that the world will be a better place when women are heard. Share your story with us, and you could be our next Featured Storyteller! Learn more.

How to Get Involved

Sunita's story of taking a stand started with crowdmapping the harassment in her community. Elsa invites you to report your personal experience of sexual violence in public spaces anywhere in the world through Safecity. It is important to record your story and you can do so anonymously. If you wish to start a local Safecity chapter contact Elsa (Safecity) on World Pulse.

Story Awards: Moments of Hope 23Send Me Love

Comments

Dear Safecity, 

Your story resonated deep in my heart and to my core, generating such hope to know that these events have taken place. I have loved that this fearless girl has been placed in the middle of Wall Street, young and defiant, challenging danger and the very way that the world business is run. Then to know how it resonates with you, strong activist that you are. Then to see, yes, the same defiance in real life on beautiful Sunita's face in the midst of political action that has created profound change!!! As I went from outburst of laughter at the outrageousness of it all on both sides of the ocean, to your part in drawing these together and your own work, to the culture of men staring being stopped (!!!) my happy joy to read this, turned to actual goosebumps of new levels of hope at all that is possible due to the bravery of young activists like Sunita.

With love in sisterhood,

Tam

Dear Safecity,

I loved your post! I didn't know about that Fearless girl statue in NYC but now I hope it stays there permanently and that I get a chance to see it one day. Your story about the mural by the tea shop and how it has worked to stop men from loitering, staring and making women and girls uncomfortable and unable to fully participate in public life is heartwarming and inspiring. What a wonderful example of how art and activism can have positive impacts. I have learned from you. 

Thank you so much for sharing.

Best wishes,

Julia

Wow , we see many girls in our surroundings like Sunita, they have courage to stand up for their rights, I can see into her eyes , the confidence, her body language is very clear which shows her firm belief on what she wants to achieve in her life she is really a hope for us all , and thank you to show this hope to me too 

Sister Zeph Founder & Chairperson ZWEEF

Winner of World Pulse Lynn Syms Global Prize 2014

Dear Safecity,

So nice to read your story and about Sunita.  Its very common in our society also and even if anyone confronts she may have to face extra verbal harrashment too. The way of raising the voice through art is very inspiring. 

best regards,

anjana

Wow safe city, this is a very interesting way for girls and women to voice their concerns. Am sure many men have taken note and now know that women and girls have to be respected in all aspects. 

Thanks for a wonderful story

Mrs. Anita Kiddu Muhanguzi Head of Legal and Advocacy Centre for Batwa Minorities a.kiddu@gmail.com cfmlegal@gmail.com Skype: mrs_muhanguzi

Dear Safecity,

What a powerful way to stop men gawking at women.Art does speak and it gives me hope that we have many other Sunitas' across the globe we only need to nurture them and create spaces that allows thew to excel. Keep going

Love

 

Immah

So proud to hear this story told by you in person during your stay with me in Trinidad and Tobago. Now so thrilled to read it on World Pulse!

Social Entrepreneur 

Nicole Joseph-Chin 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Great story. It carried me away as I thought of how women suffer silently from their male counter parts. It takes courage to overcome and beat all the intimidation from men. We are stronger than men from creation. That is why more girls than boys survive between 0-5 years. We need more people to stand up and encourage our girls and women at large.

Dear Safecity,

What a wonderful story!!! Practical and to the point. The art mural must have truly put these men to shame, I guess for those with a conscious, they must and stopped taking tea from that stop for fear of being labelled one of them. And the girls and women must be the happiest - walking to school at peace with the confidence of the speaking mural! great work.

LVB

Well done!! You have found a way to communicate without attracting unwanted personal attention whilst broadcasting a message loud and clear. Congratulations, keep working against intimidation.