SHEROES in conversation with Shruti Kapoor the face behind Sayfty. Also a photographer, Shruti tell us what got Sayfty started.
Tell us more about yourself and what you do.
I am a passionate and driven social entrepreneur currently working on the issue of violence against women. Our mission at Sayfty is to educate, equip and empower women globally to stand up and fight against violence.
I was born and raised in India. Having lived in India for the first 20 years of my life I too experienced sexual harassment, the kind most women face daily. Growing up I did not have access to this kind of self-defense training or information. On several occasions, I was taught to ignore harassment.
In the year 2000, I moved to the US to pursue higher studies. During these 14 years I earned a Ph.D. in Economics, worked at The World Bank, taught economics to undergraduates and have now finally embarked on the path of entrepreneurship. However, the most valuable learning has been to learn how to look after myself well. Stay safe, alert and aware. I have earned great awareness and now know how to protect myself and stand up against any form of violence. I don’t ignore or tolerate any violence.
Our goal at Sayfty is to pass on that awareness and confidence. We are working with various NGOs, to spread awareness. Finding creative ways to engage the community to ensure women’s safety. After all women hold up half the sky. We owe it to ourselves!
What was the inspiration behind starting Sayfty?
Sometimes we have to stop complaining and just start working. That was the real inspiration behind Sayfty. I was tired of people just pointing fingers at the broken system, the law, the government etc. etc. It’s super easy to sit on our comfortable couches at home and point fingers at others and complain about what’s not going right. Better still make a donation and feel good about you.
I wanted to change that for myself and so I decided to stop complaining and start working towards finding creative solutions to address the problem of violence against women. I strongly believe that each woman has the power to protect herself. Through Sayfty we want to pass on that belief to you. Show you how to use your voice, your inner strength and your confidence to protect yourself from the daily sexual harassment/violence.
Are women in India open to using Sayfty products? How has the response been?
Yes & No. It depends on who you are and where you are coming from. Women living in big cities are more aware, have heard, read and know about Sayfty products like the pepper spray. Some have spent as much as Rs 500 to buy one; others are willing to buy it. In contrast we have women and girls in small towns, leading sheltered and protected lives. They have never heard of or seen a pepper spray. Their immediate response is usually “we don’t need it”.
I have now met with and spoken to100s of women and girls and the reaction has been varied. Some are big proponents of these products and swear by it, others clueless or don’t want to spend the money. If it’s provided for free even a non-believer will grab the product.
The need of the hour is to raise awareness. We want to make these products easily accessible and affordable for all. During our workshops most participants start off apprehensive, scared, unsure of what they are getting into. By the end of the workshop, they are certainly more confident, more vocal and eager to learn more about personal safety.
So yes, while there is initial resistance amongst women to do anything about their personal safety, once we are able to convince them to participate in our workshops, the attitude changes. We have to spread more awareness. These products are a one-time investment but along with it come alertness and more awareness. Your lipsticks costs you more than a can of pepper spray. Don’t you think we owe it to yourselves to invest in our own safety?
You are also a photographer, how do you juggle that with entrepreneurship?
Photography is my passion. When you are passionate about something and you love it the hours just fly by and you don’t feel its work. It’s a perfect compliment. It brings out my creativity and allows me to de-stress and take a break from my entrepreneurial work. It fuels me and allows me to appreciate the beauty around me. I am lucky to be in a city like New York. A photographer’s delight. There is always so much to capture here.
Moreover a picture tells a thousand words. My aim is to one day; use the medium of photography to highlight this very important issue of violence against women. Photography is a very powerful medium and I’m glad I get to work on both!