While sipping our choice of poison, how many of us have lamented the sad state of women safety in our country and then gone on to completely forget about it the next day. Not Srishti Bakshi, the woman behind Project Crossbow, who is walking the length of the country, since September 15, from Kanyakumari to Srinagar, for women empowerment. She will be covering 3800kms over 260 days.
Daughter of an army officer and a teacher, Srishti has worked earlier with India Today, KPMG, ITC, Red Bull, and OtterBox. She quit her job in Hong Kong as Marketing Manager, APAC for OtterBox before setting out on this seemingly impossible journey. An alumnus of ISB, Srishti relates the reason behind this initiative, “As a college student, I faced the brunt of being a single woman in Mumbai. When with India Today, we had to pitch our magazine, India Today Women, most sponsors would reject it saying that it focused on ‘real women’ and was not glamorous enough. When I was doing my MBA, I noticed that out of 700 students, less than 100 were girls. While female applicants were being encouraged, it was upsetting. The last trigger was the Bulandshahr rape case in 2016. Most people I spoke to had a very ‘India mein aisa hi hota hai’ attitude; some even grew visibly uncomfortable when I talked about it. So I decided that instead of being an armchair critic, I will do something about it.”
The Idea & Preparation
Over much brainstorming over a whiteboard at home, it hit Srishti one evening that she would walk through the country and spearhead change and debate about women empowerment. She tells, “This is life-changing for me as well. To garner credibility for my walk, I applied to UN and was selected as Empower Women Champion for Change 2016-2017. UN Women’s Empower Women Initiative is dedicated to empowering women to achieve their full economic potential by inspiring both men and women to become advocates, change-makers, and leaders in their community. That boosted my confidence. To prepare myself physically for the walk, I enrolled at an athletic facility and got involved with CrossFit and Weight Training. My father was instrumental in planning out the whole thing. We then hired staff which recces the route a few days before I walk it. Many corporate firms like L&T Financial Services, Jagran Group, ITC-Vivel, IOCL, and others have pitched in with their resources to help with the workshops that I am conducting enroute.” That is not all. The President of India, Shri Ram Nath Kovind too has extended his support to her and CrossBow campaign.
Along the Way
To just walk the country would have been an exercise in futility if not for Srishti’s workshops that she is conducting for rural and urban women. These workshops aim at educating women about safety, financial and digital literacy, apart from women’s rights, sanitation, and hygiene. “We are one of the biggest markets for smartphones and women, especially in rural areas, are practically terrified of handling the gadgets. In these places, I try to make them comfortable with the smartphone. Tata Trusts and Google’s Internet Saathi program are my partners in these modules. I taught these women to take selfies, showed them videos and photos of Rameshwaram temple etc. They were spellbound and so eager to learn. After the initial interaction, the Google guys take the connect and run a six months course for them”, Srishti elaborates.
The Walk, CrossBow & Afterwards
“I am on this modern day Dandi March but I am making a connect with others through social media. Just having an Instagram or Facebook account wasn’t enough. So we have created this app, CrossBow Miles for IOS users which is still in Beta stages and are working on creating one for Android users. Through this app, anyone can donate their daily steps towards the mission. So if someone donated a certain number of steps they can see that it bought a notebook for a girl in rural India. I have partnered with 20 NGOs who already have done substantial work in their areas and these projects can be unlocked on the app through the steps donation that the user makes. This way one can associate tangible results through gifting their steps and people can help without being physically present”, Srishti explains.
She plans to end her walk in April 2018. Srishti says, “I believe in the good side of people. We are shooting a documentary along the way.” She hopes to work on tech solutions to social problems once her walk has concluded. With a fresh idea and an innovative approach towards women empowerment, backed by her marketer’s education and experience, Srishti is bound to make a difference. Here’s to a Billion Steps and more!