Our Show ‘Main Kuch Bhi Kar Sakti Hoon’ Is A Salute To Women Who Dare To Rebel: Poonam Muttreja
- IWB Post
- May 17, 2019
Ladkunwar Kushwaha in Bundelkhand fought patriarchy to became the first girl from her village to go to college and Patna’s Nirma Devi is spreading awareness about family planning after convincing her husband to use contraceptives. Women in Bairiya, Bihar, are meeting every week to discuss issues of domestic violence and what steps to take against it. These are just some of the progressive developments taking place across the most remote and marginalized places in India, all thanks to the awareness spread by Doordarshan’s show Main Kuch Bhi Kar Sakti Hoon.
Conceptualized and produced by the Population Foundation Of India (PFI) and directed by Feroz Abbas Khan, Main Kuch Bhi Kar Sakti Hoon speaks fearlessly about issues like women’s sexual health, early marriage, early and repeated pregnancies, family planning, use of contraceptives, domestic violence, etc.
Explaining how they wanted to spread awareness via entertainment, Executive Director of PFI Poonam Muttreja shares the aim behind the show – to present a powerful example of a woman’s ability to overcome every hurdle if she sets her heart on it.
Tell me about the process of coming up with the concept of the show.
As Population Foundation of India promotes and advocates for the effective formulation and implementation of gender-sensitive population, health and development strategies and policies, we have done many pieces of research, case studies, data, which forms the basic plot of the serial. Then we collaborated with director Feroz Abbas Khan to spread this information to the masses in a scripted form that makes them aware while entertaining them i.e., entertainment education.
Good idea, indeed. Currently, the show is in its third season. What are the social issues the third season is dealing with?
Apart from our existing theme of women’s empowerment, our overarching theme this time is that it is high time that men become involved in social development issues. We are reaching out to the younger generation as well as they are a much more defining factor in societal improvement then we give them credit for. The other social issues we are striving to bring attention to are violence against women, their health issues, family planning, the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan and many other topics.
The show is being aired by Doordarshan free of cost and is the world’s most watched television show with a viewership of over 400 million across 50 countries. The earlier 2 seasons with 170 episodes have been translated into 14 languages and has been broadcast on 240 radio channels as well as the internet. The show’s cumulative viewership has exceeded the viewership of Game Of Thrones.
You told me that this show is primarily about women’s empowerment. In the last year, we saw the movement #MeToo take over India as well, where women called out their abuser publicly. Are you planning to motivate women in rural India to become a part of this movement via your show?
Absolutely! In fact, one of the biggest issues covered in this season is when a young 19-year-old girl gets raped when she goes to defecate in the open, she speaks out against her abuser, goes to a radio station to share what happened with her and approaches the police. We show how the community supports her throughout rather than victim-blaming her that often happens, despite the fact that the abusers are powerful people.
We will also show how activists and women’s groups can support and help such survivors of rape. Main Kuch Bhi Kar Sakti Hoon is a salute to all women who dare to rebel.
The representation of women in the Lok Sabha elections see its steepest low. Does the show talk about this issue as well?
Not only do we talk about it but we also motivate women to not let patriarchy hinder their aspirations. One of the major female characters is going to stand for elections and become a sarpanch who is liberal and has a progressive mindset, who will influence other women to not only take leadership roles but also exercise their rights. She will be an inspiration for the women in her village.
Hopefully, more women will take inspiration from your show. Apart from these much-talked social issues, how inclusive is your show when it comes to the LGBTQIA community?
Though this topic hasn’t been explored yet in the show, we are going to hold a meeting next week to discuss how to incorporate this crucial issue in the show in an organic manner.
Amazing! Apart from your gripping storyline, is there any other way you reach your viewers, especially the rural population, to solve their queries regarding similar social issues?
At the end of each episode, we share a number with our viewers on which they can give a missed call and our experts will call them back and advise them appropriately regarding the issues they have in mind. In season 1 and 2 we got around 1.7 million phone calls from people sharing how they are tackling similar problems in life, what they have learned from our show and other questions they have.
Your earlier mentioned that the show will be presenting the topic of family planning, too, this season. As you have been a part of the Family Planning 2020 Reference Group, can you tell me about the issues and challenges that are there when it comes to implementing the plan, especially in rural India?
First is that rural women don’t have access to family planning and that doesn’t help the fact that these women have been forced to marry early and produce as many children as possible. They also don’t have to temporary methods of avoiding pregnancy so they turn towards methods like sterilization and abortion. India sees over 15 million abortions every year of which 85% are illegal, unsafe, unhygienic and done by unlicensed practitioners, thanks to the strict laws around abortion in the nation.
The second issue is that in India, our public health system doesn’t spend time on counseling a woman on what would be the best method of family planning, according to her age and stage in life. They are not briefed about the contraceptives available, their usage, their side-effects and how to manage them.
And the third issue is men. You see, the easiest method here is male sterilization but Indian men, unfortunately, suffer from this misconception that they will lose their virility if they go through with vasectomy. So, only 0.3% of Indian men get sterilized compared to women and that’s why we need to engage more men in family planning.