The Optimist Citizen

A girl who is ‘Voicing Up’ to create a safe state for girls in Uttar Pradesh


Growing up amidst an air of explicit discrimination where even the basic rights of women are violated can be a brutal revelation. In a country where millions face such violations and negligence every day, very few stand up to acknowledge the discrimination and raise a voice against it.  Shivani Srivastava who was born in a small village called Konch, Bundelkhand witnessed this brutally condescending attitude towards women right from childhood and decided to act for it.


Raised up in a broad minded family, she was backed up with support from her parents for her inclination towards a social cause. Her first step towards the cause came in the form of theatre where she joined the IPTA- Indian People Theatre’s Association and has performed street plays and workshops ever since. After finishing her schooling from Jhansi she enrolled for the B.A. Honours in Social Work course in Lucknow University.

As any young student Shivani was filled with an unparalleled happiness on entering University. But her happiness was short lived. She was shocked to witness abnormal behaviors like eve-teasing, cat-calling, violence and disrespect prevalent towards women in a place like a University. She observed that most students were not there for learning but to maneuver their way into political leadership. During elections, the atmosphere in and around the university would be so pathological that girls simply would not come to college.

Shivani and others during the Voice Up Campaign
Shivani and others during the Voice Up Campaign

Baffled with this immense transgression of women rights, she started her campaign- Voice Up in 2014 with an intensive team of 50 students. The group potrayed street plays against gender based violence and acted as a pressure group to ensure prompt police action for crimes against women. They interacted with strangers on issues of gender equality and women safety and utilized the social networking interface to sensitize the citizens towards gender inequality.

During her Masters degree, she started an internship with YES- Yeh Ek Soch Foundation. It was here that came to know about Changelooms, a program which promotes projects of passionate young social entrepreneurs. Eager to take her work to the next level, Shivani sent her project Voice Up in an initiative Unmanifesto.  Unmanifesto was a nationwide campaign initiated by CYC- PRAVAH and supported by UNFPA in the year 2014 and was run for a period of 3 months in 2015. With the objective of engaging youth participation in the political process, bringing social inclusion and effectively involving government bodies for a change, this campaign ran across 20 states and Union Territories of the country.

Shivani explaining the issues faced by women in the Unmanifesto event.
Shivani explaining the issues faced by women in the Unmanifesto event.

The Unmanifesto campaign gave a new shape to her project. What had earlier been a small pressure of group became a movement which invoked government participation. “I had never dreamt I would collaborate with the Police and the political parties!” says Shivani. She is frank enough to admit that she, like most students her age, was apprehensive about the nature of Police. However, she was supported by the DGP and the head of 1090 helpline for women. Moreover her work and demands got a positive response from the Aam Aadmi Party.

Her journey during the three months of Unmanifesto campaign has been an interesting one, full of highs and lows. Initially, when she started interacting with students back at the University, she was met with bored faces but it was the support from her professors, her Changelooms mentors- Mr. Sharik and Mr. Zeeshan and the Delhi team of unManifesto that kept her going. Slowly, the workshops that she conducted to engage youth into talking about their understanding of gender gained immense traction.

One of the banners used during the Voice Up campaign to raise voice against violence
One of the banners used during the Voice Up campaign to raise voice against violence

Reminiscing about a nerve-chilling incident, Shivani tells the story of a troubled junior of hers who had once been a victim of child abuse and was then being harassed by a boy. Shivani helped her file a complaint against the boy and brought the issue into the notice of the authorities. She takes immense pride in the fact that the girl confessed being inspired by her and aims to work and stop of Child Abuse issues with schools.

Shivani feels grateful for the constructive changes that came under the guidance and mentorship of Unmanifesto. While earlier her efforts by authorities now she does hold a respectable position in her area. In collaboration with Women Powerline and Mahila Sammaan Prakosht by UP Police, Voice Up is spreading the message through streetplays and awareness workshops. She has succeeded in sending a list of demands to AAP which focuses on “active” women’s cell in all colleges, 33% reservation for women in police and toilets for girls in schools and other educational institutes. Apart from this, she has also managed to get cameras installed in the campus of her college to curb incidents like eve-teasing.

For a youth like her, the impact she has made on the society at such a young age is commendable. Young individuals like Shivani and initiatives like Unmanifesto strengthen the belief that the Change has started.

Story by :  Disha Malviya

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