As part of FII’s new Meet the Team series, we are featuring former and current employees who have worked with or are working with us currently since the inception of FII. Feminism in India as a digital intersectional feminist media platform would not exist if not for these incredible individuals who have helped build this organisation to make what it is today.
Today, we’re chatting with Japleen Pasricha, who is the founder-director of FII. Japleen started FII’s Facebook page in 2013 when she began her own journey as a feminist. With her background being in German Studies and not Gender or Women’s Studies, she began to look around on the Internet for accessible resources on the feminist movement in India. All she found were academic articles which were dense, theoretical and mostly behind a paywall, or content from Western feminist platforms like Bitch Media and Feministing. Feminism in India thus, was created with a vision of having easy-to-understand, accessible, popular Indian feminist content on the internet written by Indian women for Indian women.
Japleen has Masters and M.Phil degrees in German Studies and used to be a German language lecturer at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi and Amity University, Noida. Prior to starting FII, she worked with multiple women’s rights NGOs in India like Breakthrough India and Point of View. She has also worked with Freedom House, a non-profit based in the USA, on a research report and advocacy campaign on online violence against women. She was featured by The German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development in a book on ‘Women in Tech’ for her work at FII and facilitated by Maneka Gandhi and the Ministry of Women & Child Development, GoI as a ‘Web Wonder Woman’. She has also been recognised by the Swedish Foreign Minister for her work on the gender gap on Wikipedia. She is a TEDx speaker and was recognised as a Young Innovator in 2018 by World Summit Awards.
Currently, Japleen oversees the strategic vision and growth at FII. She likes to garden, travel, hike, swim and cycle and is slowly moving towards a sustainable lifestyle.
FII: What do you like most about the FII family?
Japleen: The larger FII community, the writers, the interns, the volunteers and the team are also my friends and family. That I can share anything with them, that I know I will always find support, that they stand with me when we are trolled on social media. That is the best part of FII, its community!
FII: What advice would you give someone joining the organisation?
Japleen: Take initiative and ownership of your work, ask questions, know that there are no wrong answers and develop a thick skin, because we are the trolls’ favourite.
FII: Which fictional character do you identify with and why?
Japleen: I think I identify with Buttercup from The Powerpuff Girls. She reminds me of my once ‘angry young girl’ phase. She is also often misunderstood and painted in one light, I think I can relate to that.
FII: What is something that you’re tired of hearing?
Japleen: My mispronounced and misspelt name, haha. I have been called Japlin, Japline, Jasleen, Jaspleen, Joplin, etc on several occasions and in emails too. Sigh!
FII: Which feminist movement do you feel particularly passionate about and why?
Japleen: It’s difficult to choose as I feel all of them are extremely important, however, I’d say that I’m deeply concerned about women’s sexual, maternal and reproductive health and how the actions of the State, the corporates, the patriarchy and the medical sector impact women’s health.
FII: What makes FII a ‘feminist’ organisation?
Japleen: Its people, its ethics, its politics and the fact that we gracefully acknowledge and accept our mistakes and learn from them. FII does not fear constructive criticism and attempts to improve itself every time.
FII: What’s the most fun thing about your job?
Japleen: That I get to do what I love, that we can take our bras off in the office when it gets too uncomfortable and that I have a stellar team who lead the organisation when I’m away.
FII: Do you remember when and why you decided to work at a feminist organisation?
Japleen: I always knew I was a feminist even when I didn’t know the term and I always had a soft corner for social work and women’s issues even when I was studying a completely different subject, i.e. German Studies and Literature. However, I didn’t plan to work at or start a feminist organisation, it just happened and I’m glad it did. I’m in a space now where I’m happy with what I’m doing and everyday think and innovate about what can I do to make it better.
FII: Tell us about a particular incident that happened to you at work that you will always remember.
Japleen: I will always remember the first time someone enquired to join the team (my first colleague Swetha). Back in 2014, I was running FII by myself, it was just a six months old initiative and I was still figuring out what it is and what I want to do with it. That’s when I received a message from a total stranger that she wants to be a part of the team. The fact that someone believed in the work I was doing and wanted to associate with me/FII, was and still is a wonderful feeling. I’m grateful to Swetha who took the first step and joined me, hence making (the first) FII team.
FII: If you had a talk show, which feminist icon would you call and what would you ask them?
Japleen: If I had a talk show, I’d call Kimberle Crenshaw as my feminist politics as well as FII’s are inspired by her theory of intersectionality. I’d ask her what she thinks would be the next big feminist theory after intersectionality.