She's here finally… Shakti, that is!
Welcome to the Shakti Initiative: From HAF Executive Director Suhag Shukla
Many years ago, I was invited to speak on a panel about women and religion. Armed with my senior thesis from undergrad — The Vedic Woman: Who Was She and Will She Return? — I was able to quickly pull together a long list of stories and scriptural quotes to bolster my own experience of finding strength and inspiration in Hindu teachings as a Hindu woman.
After the panel, a number of intrigued audience members approached me for online sources that they could read to learn more.
I promised I’d get back to them. The truth is, I never did.
After scouring the internet for hours, what I found left me seriously F R U S T R A T E D.
There were the websites that were politically or religiously motivated — brimming with stereotypes and outright lies. They took scriptural quotes out of context and juxtaposed them with social evils afflicting women of all backgrounds in India to paint the ugly picture they sought to promote.
Others were academic in nature, plagued with the same exoticizing and eroticizing with which we’re sadly all too familiar.
And then there were the well meaning, but confused ones where social customs and even wives’ tales were being passed off as religious mandates.
Frustration, however, can be a pathway to one of two things — anger or innovation.
At HAF we’re fans of the latter.
And so — on these auspicious first days of Gupt Navaratri — we welcome you to the Shakti Initiative: An accessible, online exploration of Hindu teachings about and by women, the contributions of Hindu women throughout history; and the role both women and men play in bringing to fruition solutions that are grounded in Hindu teachings to address critical contemporary issues.
My deepest hope for the Shakti Initiative when it was only a seed of an idea was that the life stories and contributions of some of the most remarkable women history has ever seen would inspire both women and men to get reacquainted with and reassert, in many facets of life where we have fallen short, the balance and harmony our traditions advocate for between the feminine and masculine.
In turn, women and men will renew their commitment to work together to alleviate the suffering that has uniquely and disproportionately affected women in our society, and support one another so that all have access to their highest potential.
In a small way, my hope is already manifesting.
When I first proposed the idea at our National Team meet several years ago, nearly every hand shot up, either in support of the project or to join the Shakti writing team. Not only that, we’ve gotten new volunteers — young and not as young — who upon hearing about the project, have contributed articles, and are working on new ones as I write this.
We hope you enjoy the Shakti Initiative as much as we have been inspired by it.
Jai Mata Di and Happy Navaratri!
HAF Executive Director
P.S. Would you like us to write about a Hindu woman of note? Interview a swamini known to you? Uncover the reason behind a tradition centered around women? Send us your suggestions at firstname.lastname@example.org.