to create a spectacle, ignite thought, inspire action
Women Walk at Midnight
When I am asked why we walk, what the end goal is or when we intend to stop, I usually say it is to reclaim the night or it is to challenge patriarchal restrictions on our movement. But when I really sit with the question, I find that it is much deeper than that. Every time I have walked, I have felt an overwhelming sense of solidarity and strength. The act of walking has felt bigger and bolder than me, the individual. Every walk has started with a sense of fear, and some walks have been skipped because of it. But each one has ended with a renewed knowingness of why I walk.
I walk for community. I walk for experience. I walk for exploration. I walk for engagement. I walk to express. I walk to feel. I walk to provoke. I walk to impact. I walk for progress. I walk to run. I walk to stop. I walk to believe. I walk for strength. I walk in solidarity. I walk in disallowance. I walk for. I walk against.
Ever since their inception, the walks have been a non-ticketed, volunteer led movement. The purpose has been to create space that was never given. To come together in large numbers and experience our city, in solidarity. Create a spectacle, ignite thought, inspire policy led action.
The first walk I participated in, was also the first I led in my neighbourhood in August, on the eve of Indian Independence Day – 15th Aug. Fear, the subtly functioning, power weapon of patriarchy, crept in a couple of hours before the walk was supposed to begin. The responsibility of leading the walk carried me past any last minute excuses that I was thinking of. And so, at 12 am, our tiny army of 10 started to walk.
I knew then that this was at once, bigger than the sum of all our experiences, but also only as significant as each of us wanted it to be. Inspired, I joined the core team of 2 other women at the time. We continued to organise, facilitate and grow the movement and community – one month at a time, one walk at a time.
Today our team is bigger, and 10 of us meet once a week to imagine newer possibilities for the format of the walk.
There is strength in solidarity; the bigger the group the safer we feel.
There is power in emotion; walks associated with important dates, Independence Day or 16th Dec, bring larger groups together.
The problem of the night not being accessible is a 'wicked problem'. It cuts across class, gender, job and age. Making this space open to more than just middle class cis-women, is a massive challenge and we are yet to discover how.
The restrictions – both legal and personal – brought by the pandemic have resulted in new formats of the walk emerging. In the months of August and October this year we have mobilised women across the globe to walk in their own neighbourhoods, within their own social bubbles. The call to action has been to walk together, separately.
As a result of this, through the weekend of 14th-16th August 2020, we ended up with 15 walks happening across 6 Indian cities and 3 international ones.
We hope to harness this momentum and continue exploring new ways of solidarity and togetherness, through walking locally at a global scale.
We have also expanded our community via monthly zoom calls called 'Raaton Ki Baatein', where women from across India have been coming together to share stories, experiences, poems and games about the night.