Royal Television Society award-winning student filmmaker Meera Darji from Leicester, tells ITV News Central about her next big documentary project - she's returning to India, this time to highlight the plight of female construction workers there. Read her thoughts below.
"My name is Meera Darji and I am a filmmaker based in Leicester. I have always been passionate in storytelling though the medium of films and about telling stories of unheard communities living on the margins of society. I find their lives so fascinating, their beliefs intriguing and I wish to explore these further through an ethnographic, observational approach.
Ever since I started learning about filmmaking, I was always intrigued by people’s journeys. Thus, my final third year project, Transindia explored the life of the Transgender community (Hijras) in India. With thorough research, crowd-funding and a passion, I travelled to India for a month and finally met the community for myself.
Capturing in-depth interviews and the actuality of how they truly survive within society was an incredible experience and an insight beyond research.
Transindia won the Best Factual student film award at the Royal Television Society (2015). It was also awarded the Best Documentary Short at the Kashish Mumbai Queer Film Festival (2016). This has encouraged me further to keep on producing and doing what I love.
I'm currently pursing my Masters Degree in 21st Century Media Practice at Coventry University, and I'm currently working on for my final Postgraduate project, ‘Majoor 9195’.
There are 113,029 unregistered construction workers (Majoor) in Gujarat in India, with an average daily employment rate of 9195 female Majoors. This film looks at the lives of Majoor women, exposing the difficult conditions they work in, as well as their hopes for the future.
From undertaking unskilled manual labour, these brave women have become the silent backbone of India’s economy. However, as an unprotected labour force, the women earn less than men and are not even entitled to basic human rights.
As mothers and wives, these rural women must live up to society traditions at the same time as working all day in scorching temperatures and crude conditions. Facing exploitation and having no privacy has become anorm for these vulnerable women. It’s time their voices are heard.
When travelling to India and filming the Hijras, I would always see female workers on the roads in the city. They would carry bricks and rubble on their heads and walk bare-foot on the streets in the extortionate heat. With their children playing in the debris, the women would continue to lift bricks, build walls and mix cement without any health and safety precautions nor suffice breaks. After seeing this I was intrigued by them, their work and strength.
After undertaking research, I was surprised to see how many difficulties and inequalities they faced. I soon became passionate in wanting to share their stories with the world, where I hope to address these social issues and try to bring change.
With ‘Majoor 9195’ I hope to explore the women’s real stories and journeys. I want to capture their true lifestyles, following topics of equal pay, society perceptions, hardships, child marriage and inequality.
Indeed the film is about empowering these women, but more than just heightening inequality and misogyny, I want to really understand them and explore what it’s truly like to be a rural woman in urban India.
I am so passionate in giving a voice to these brave women and showing the truth of their working lives".