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Indian sitcoms need to revisit portrayal of women: Amala Akkineni

Mar 10, 2014

Popular actor and animal activist Amala Akkineni who is also the founder of Hyderabad based Blue Cross, an organization which works for animal welfare, spoke to OneWorld South Asia on the sidelines of REX awards in New Delhi. Excerpts from the interview.

Amala Akkineni

OneWorld South Asia: How do you leverage your celebrity status for women empowerment?

Amala Akkineni: Having been a successful actor and belonging to a family of actors, I am identified by some as an actress and by others as wife of a very famous super star (Nagarjuna). Some even identify me as a great actor’s daughter in law. There is a kind of recognition when I go to different places and it adds value to certain social causes which I highlight.

I identify different organizations which are reliable, credible and joined them in their activities. One such organisation, I work for is Baalvikaasa in Andhra Pradesh.  It works in almost 4200 villages spread across the southern Indian states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.

This organization which was started by a lady very close to me, Balaka, works for the eradication of child labour. These children belong to the poor widows. These widows after the death of their husbands were thrown out of their houses and were exploited by the moneylenders.

OWSA: How does Baalvikaasa work for the welfare of widows and what role do you play in supporting this cause?

Amala: This organization tries to help them by clearing their loans from the moneylenders. It also helps them to get skills and provides them financial support for starting new business ventures. Unfortunately, many of the widows don’t have the skills and they work as labourers.

My support is in the form of raising funds in the cities for these women to educate their children and to be a voice for such women.

OWSA: You are the founder of Hyderabad based Blue Cross, an organization which works for animal welfare.  Tell us something about it.

Amala: I and my husband had started Blue Cross in Hyderabad 20 years back. When I went to Hyderabad, I saw many animals were lying on the side of the road injured from road accidents or sick with disease, after which, I started rescuing animals myself.

Blue Cross has a staff of 30 members and 400 volunteers working for animal welfare.

OWSA: What role do you see media can play for women empowerment?

Amala: I do not see much scope for the big screen as far as women empowerment is concerned. Cinema is going through critical phase and it is also facing severe competition with television. I don’t think it is a (right kind of) forum to spread the message (on women empowerment).

However, there is future in television. We have to showcase empowered women through television sitcoms and rewrite women characters. So far, women have been limited to stereotypes. If TV sitcoms want to be a game changer, they have to rewrite the script for women.

OWSA: Do you think women are living in an era of conflict?

Amala: Considering the past times, the present era seems much safer for women. Unlike 20 years back, we now have laws for the safety of women. But, still we have to go a long way.

Man who abuse women are equally perverted. The perversion in man’s mind is responsible for sexual crimes against women.

OWSA: Do you see any similarity between the challenges faced by women in North and South India?

Amala: I think difference always happens between urban and rural areas and that is a bigger divide. Urban women face more common issues while women in south are little more conservative.

Regarding not going out or dressing a certain way I will not go there to judge the system because each one of us must respect their culture. If we cannot respect diverse cultures, we cannot call ourselves Indians.

The game changer for a woman is her education. Give her a vocational career where she can have financial independence. If a woman has financial stability, will she take her husband’s abuse or take her father’s abuse? You gain the respect of the family if you are financially strong.

OWSA: Do you have any message for the young girls on this International Women’s Day?

Amala: There is nothing in this world that will keep women from being amazing empowered partners of humanity. My request for women is that they complete their education, get a job, learn to defend themselves, improve their mind and take humanity to next level.

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