Purple People

Purple People

The State of Goa held India’s first-of-its-kind disability fest from January 8th to 13th, 2024, called the International Purple Fest. The fest drew over 13,0000 participants, both disabled and non-disabled people from across the country and many parts of the world. Rising Flame was one of the key partners of the International Purple Fest 2024.

Over the course of six days, people came together to commemorate the values of diversity, disability, and inclusion. The fest was organised by the Government of Goa, the State Commission for Persons with Disabilities Goa, and the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities, Government of India.

We pioneered the first ever gender track at Purple Fest - “Purple People” and curated an immersive experiential space called the Human Library. In total we organised 15 dynamic engagement sessions that brought together lives and realities of persons with disabilities and their families, caregivers etc.

Purple People: Centering gender and disability experiences

All persons with disabilities ask is to be seen and considered as full human beings, with lives and dreams, with hopes and desires. They are routinely ungendered, stripped of their human identity, and desexualised in order to reduce them to their disability. Within persons with disabilities, women and gender marginalised persons with disabilities face unique barriers while navigating the world. As a result of which, often their lived experiences do not make it to the public eye. They face gender stereotypes, unequal access to opportunities, limited decision-making power, and societal expectations that restrict their roles and choices.

To address these challenges and bring the often-unacknowledged conversations to the front and centre, we conceptualised and curated the first-ever, unique gender track at the international Purple Fest called Purple People, from January 11 to 13, 2024 at Kala Academy Goa to spotlight the challenges faced by women, gender-marginalised persons and all people with disabilities, and their specific life experiences. Under Purple People, we organised panels, masterclasses, and a reading session covering work and leadership, accessibility, mobility, technology, sexuality, disabled parenting, climate change, consent, and more.

On a purple background, there is an illustration of an earth in the centre with five illustrations around it. There are tiny black birds and white clouds in the background around the globe. In the middle of the globe is the text: “Purple People”. There are a few grass patterns around the illustrations. The International Purple Fest logo is on the left and the Rising Flame logo is on the top right. The illustrations around the globe are: 1) an illustration of two people sitting together. They are looking at each other. One of them is wearing rainbow socks and the other one is wearing an asexuality badge. 2) an illustration of man holding a woman and carrying a child. There are two elderly people standing behind them. The words “In this together” are written in front of them. 3) an illustration of a man holding a cane and wearing black glasses, is speaking on the mic. Next to him is a woman holding crutches and has her fist raised. 4) an illustration of a woman embracing a child. There are pink hearts around them. 5) an illustration of one woman seated in a wheelchair.

You can download the accessible pdf of the Purple People booklet here.

[Note for screen reader users: This manual is best read on a pdf reading software after downloading it.]

Panel 1: Gender, leadership, and world of work

Held on January 11th from 10 AM to 11:30 AM, the panel was moderated by Nidhi Goyal (Founder and Executive Director of Rising Flame). The speakers included Soumita Basu (Founder CEO, Zyenika Inclusive Fashion), Vineet Saraiwala (Founder Atypical Advantage), Aditi Gangrade (Co-Founder, Much Much Media and Purple Ambassador), and Surashree Rahane (Founder and CEO, Yearbook Canvas).

Five people seated behind the desk who are the speakers and moderator of the panel. From left to right: Soumita Basu, Aditi Gangrade, Nidhi Goyal, Surashree Rahane, and Vineet Saraiwala. Vineet is speaking on the microphone. The backdrop on the wall has the following text: International Purple Fest Goa 2024. Purple Convention Purple People.

The panel covered themes from the stigma to struggles with acquiring investments and asking for accommodations. Panellists discussed societal expectations and the constant pressure to overperform, emphasising the need for entrepreneurs with disabilities to prioritise their desires over societal expectations.

Read more about the panel here.

Panel 2: Gender and Care

Held on January 11th from 11:30 AM to 1:00 PM, the panel’s speakers were Jo Chopra McGowan (Executive Director at Latika Roy Foundation), Nandita DeSouza (Director, Sethu Centre for Child Development), Sabina D’Cunha (Parent and Secretary to the Hemophilia Society Panjim chapter Women's group), and Prachi Arora (Indian Sign Language Interpreter & Child Of Deaf Adults (CODA)). Panel was moderated by Barsha Banerjee (Managing Director, Perkins India).

Five people seated behind a white desk and a sign interpreter standing on the right. From left to right are Nandita DeSouza, Sabina D’Cunha, Barsha Banerjee, Jo Chopra McGowan, and Prachi Arora. Nandita is speaking on the microphone. Behind the speakers is a huge purple banner on the wall that says: International Purple Fest. Purple Convention, Purple People. Logos of all organisers can be seen.

The speakers mentioned the burden of caregiving, which is often on women, and the requirement of communication and community support to prevent isolation and stigma. Family-centred care and appreciation can make a significant difference in addressing caregiving challenges.

Read more about the panel here.

Panel 3: Are you a man? Or a woman? A panel on masculinity, femininity, and gender fluidity

The panel took place on January 12th from 10 AM to 11:30 AM. It was moderated by Abhishek Anicca (Writer, editor & disability rights activist), hosting Sweta Mantrii (Writer, Disability inclusion enabler & Standup comedian), Shivangi Agrawal (Disabled queer activist & artist) and Ishan Chakraborty (Assistant Professor at Jadavpur University) as speakers.

Four people are seated behind the desk. From left to right are Abhishek Anicca, Ishan Chakraborty, Shivangi Agrawal, and Sweta Mantrii. Shivangi is speaking on the microphone. Behind the speakers is a huge purple banner on the wall that says: International Purple Fest. Purple Convention, Purple People. Logos of all organisers can be seen.

The speakers shared their struggles and early life experiences with gender and sexuality. Many disabled people have to deal with societal judgments on their gender. Society constantly perceives disabled people as either asexual or hypersexual, even fetishising disability. The speakers elaborated on how they navigated the established gendered structures and binaries, and how they challenged the idea of “normal” and able-body standards of gender, beauty and desires.

Read more about the panel here.

Panel 4: Disabled parenting

Held on January 12th from 11:30 AM to 1:00 PM, the session was moderated by Dr. Shikha Silliman Bhattacharjee (Researcher and lawyer). The speakers were Sandhya Menon (Communications Professional) and Prasad Joshi (Founder and General Secretary of the Goa Association of the Deaf (GAD)).

Three people are seated behind a table. From left to right are: Prasad Joshi, Sandhya Menon, and Shikha Bhattacharjee. Prasad is standing and speaking sign language. The backdrop on the wall has the following text: “International Purple Fest Goa 2024. Purple Convention, Purple People.” Logos of all organisers can be seen.

The speakers shared about the different aspects of caregiving and how they navigate parenting in their unique ways. Speakers shared their very personal journeys of being disabled and adopting a child or in another case being stopped from communicating with the child in sign language, or the pressures of families and loved ones of sending the children to boarding school because of the disability. The panellists discussed handling these challenges around stigma with a firm grounding and a knowledge that they may not be what society holds up as the “normal” parent but being aware that they are parents who have something to give their children. For all panellists, building communities of support has been a boon to their journeys.

Read more about the panel here.

Panel 5: Gender, accessibility, and mobility, including assistive technology and devices

Held on January 13th from 10 AM to 11:30 AM, the panel had the key note address by Shri Rajesh Agrawal, Secretary Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities, GOI. The panel featured the following speakers: Apoorv Kulkarni (Head of Research, OMI Foundation), Anubha Singhal (Co-founder and Director, Enable Me Access and Purple Ambassador) Shrutilata Singh (Senior Specialist Network Support, Sense International India). The panel was moderated by Antara Telang (Partner - Digital, Gnothi Seauton). Dipti Prasad (founder, Nobaflix) presented her platform as a case example. The panel discussed the challenges faced by women with disabilities while accessing public spaces in terms of safety and redressal.

Four speakers are seated behind a table. From left to right are: Shrutilata Singh who is sitting face to face with her sign interpreter, Omita, Antara Telang, Apoorv Kulkarni, and Anubha Singhal. Anubha is speaking on the microphone. Behind the speakers is a huge purple banner on the wall that says: “International Purple Fest. Purple Convention Purple People”. Logos of all organisers can be seen.

The panel highlighted the challenges of digital and physical accessibility of spaces, infrastructure and of information. They focussed on commuting and safety but also of independent living. Highlighting the stigma and attitudinal barriers, the speakers reemphasised building inclusive solutions and spaces with persons with disabilities particularly women with disabilities being a part of design teams and leading from the front.

Read more about the panel here.

Panel 6: Disability, gender, and climate change

The panel was held on January 13th from 11:30 AM to 1:00 PM. It was moderated by Srinidhi Raghavan (Co-Lead, Programmes, Rising Flame) including the following panellists: Raj Mariwala (Director, Mariwala Health Initiative), Pranav Sethi (Disaster Risk Reduction Specialist), and Pavan Kumar Muntha (Founder, Swaadhikar).

Raj Mariwala speaking on the mic with the other two speakers Pranav Sethi and Pavan Muntha seated beside. There is a portion of the backdrop visible.

The panel highlighted the issues faced by people with disabilities in low-income countries as they face heightened vulnerabilities due to the climate crisis. The speakers also emphasised the need for urgent implementation of disability-inclusive measures. The panel highlighted the need to focus on oppressed communities like that of persons with disabilities in climate mitigation and disaster response conversations and policies. They collectively challenged the existing frameworks particularly around disaster relief which are often ableist and neurotypical.

Read more about the panel here.

Masterclasses: On Consent: Na mein na hain

The consent masterclass was conducted and organised by Rising Flame at Purple People on January 12th from 2 PM to 4 PM. It was facilitated by Nidhi Goyal (Founder and Executive Director of Rising Flame) and Srinidhi Raghavan (Co-Lead, Programmes, Rising Flame).

People are watching a film on the projector in a dimly lit room. The picture is taken from behind the audience.

The interactive masterclass raised pertinent questions about consent, specifically on the complexities around consent for women with disabilities. We examined gender, disability, agency, and autonomy through a Bollywood lens – using examples of popular lyrics objectifying women and consent. The audience discussed the complexities of consent – how it is contextual and changes for individuals with disabilities.

Read more about the masterclass here.

Masterclasses: The Law Clinic - Access to Justice + Redressal

Held on January 13th from 2 PM to 4 PM, the Law Clinic was facilitated by Kanchan Pamnani (Advocate and Solicitor, Bombay High Court), and Subhash Chandra Vashishth (Lawyer at Disability Rights Initiative and Director of Centre for Accessibility In Built Environment Foundation (CABE)).

Two women facing the camera against a huge Purple People banner on the wall that says: International Purple Fest. Purple Convention Purple People. On the left is Nidhi Goyal and on the right is Kanchan Pamnani. Nidhi is standing, holding her cane, and speaking on the microphone. Kanchan is seated on the right.

The workshop invited two lawyers as facilitators who helped provide the information needed to seek legal advice and justice. There were discussions on the specific access to justice barriers faced by women and persons with disabilities in cases of violence. There was additional information provided on access to health care in medico-legal cases.

The facilitators shared information about existing laws in the constitution, insights on how to seek the right forums, and the correct procedures to follow while seeking redressal.

Read more about the masterclass here.

Reading session: Disability, sexuality, relationships, and love

We organised a reading session on January 13th from 2 PM to 4 PM. The session featured the following disabled writers who read excerpts of their writings: Antara Telang (Partner - Digital, Gnothi Seauton), Sweta Mantrii(Writer, Disability inclusion enabler & Standup comedian), Malini Chib (Indian disability rights activist and author of One Little Finger), Aishwarya Othena (Research Scholar at IIIT-Bangalore), Abhishek Anicca (Writer, editor, & disability rights activist) and Virali Modi, (Writer & Motivational Speaker). The session was moderated by Preetam Sunkavalli (Business transformation team of an Indian Conglomerate).

Antara Telang, Malini Chib, Shabnam, Sweta Mantri and Virali Modi are seated next to each other while Shabnam is reading from One Little Finger on the microphone.

The readings centred around gender and sexuality as a disabled person. The speakers read out personal pieces and engaged in intimate dialogues. They shared their dating experience, their relationship with their body, and self-love.

Read more about the Reading Session here.

You can download the accessible pdf of the Purple People booklet here.

[Note for screen reader users: This manual is best read on a pdf reading software after downloading it.]

Human Library: Threads of Resilience

In the fest’s experience zone, Rising Flame curated Human Library – intensive immersive sessions with the 22 Purple Ambassadors who transformed into human books, sharing their life stories. Moderated by Kanishka (Program Coordinator, Rising Flame), the event unfolded stories of resilience, hardship, and success in an intimate environment. This event helped to spread awareness about disabled experiences and broadened the spectrum of human existence.

A man seated in a chair. He is wearing specs and is talking to a group of children seated around him. In the background, there is a crowd of people interacting amongst themselves.

We organised two daily sessions from January 11th to 13th from 10 AM to 1 PM. Over 150 participants attended the sessions, mostly comprised of school students.

Read more about the Human Library here.

Media interest!

The events garnered attention from various media houses, including Times of India, Goemkarponn, Navhindtimes, and more. Prachi Arora, a CODA and Indian Sign Language Interpreter shared her unique experience of growing up as a child of deaf adults (CODA), published by Times of India.

Such events are indispensable in creating awareness, fostering understanding, and contributing to forming a more inclusive society.