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Farah Nasser remembers the beginning of her career in the media industry. News organizations lacked diversity both in their newsrooms and in their stories.
“We lived in a world where there was only room for one brown girl,” Nasser, now an anchor for Global News, said.
Years ago in the South Asian community, landing a job in media was a difficult feat for women — one that bred competition and alienation.
Enter the brainchild of three didis: Didihood, an organization with the goal of creating space and sisterhood for South Asian women in the media and creative industries. To represent this cohort of women, the founders replaced the English word for sister in sisterhood with its Hindi counterpart, didi.
The idea for the collective stewed for about six years, said co-founder Arti Patel. Fresh out of Ryerson University’s School of Journalism. Patel, along with her co-founders Nikkjit Gill and Roohi Sahajpal, recognized the lack of community among South Asian women in the industry.
Patel is currently the national online journalist for Global News. Gill is managing editor at Post City magazine and Sahajpal is a social services worker in Vancouver.
Didihood has three pillars to it: networking, mentorship and community building. The founders plan on hosting events which allow women to collaborate, create seminars that teach industry-related skills and provide a space for brown women to socialize and form friendships.
“It was hard to decide what we wanted to do (at first) but we knew it had to be for South Asian women and it had to be connection-based and content-based,” Patel said.
The idea gained its footing after Patel attended a panel about professional women and barriers that they faced. “I came back feeling so inspired and I messaged (Nikkjit and Roohi) saying, ‘We’re going to do this now.’”
Soon after, Patel tweeted about wanting to meet up with South Asian women before 2017 ended. About 20 people showed up to this informal rendezvous. “I don’t think I’ve ever done that, where I sat in a room of brown women in similar industries and we talked about some of the barriers we faced at work. Didihood really started from there,” she recalls.
The collective hosted its official launch party on April 19. The event was was a mixer with a splash of networking, said Patel.
Keya Vadgama, a Toronto-based designer, said the launch really opened her eyes to the numerous South Asian women working in media and creative industries. “When you’re a young, creative brown girl in Toronto, you don’t get to network a lot (with similar people.)” At the event, Vadgama was surprised to realize how many mutual connections she had with some of the attendees.
Nasser said for a long time, South Asian women wanted something like Didihood but no one ever did it. “They went ahead and did it,” she said. “I’m so inspired and blown away and thankful that someone took charge. This is something that is so needed.”
Didihood is planning on hosting a panel in June about media representation, and a basic skills workshop for university and college students in the fall.
Bianca Bharti is a student at the Ryerson School of Journalism. Her passions revolve around all things digital and technological. She’s always learning. Keep up with her on Twitter @biancabharti.