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The Swaddle launches ‘The Night Shift,’ a podcast series profiling women who start their work after the sun sets

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MUMBAI: For women, leaving home after dusk implies an automatic invitation to danger and societal censure. Some people have even justified sexual assault and rape on the premise that women were out late at night.

Amidst this, four women -- a cab driver, a bouncer at a popular club, a bar dancer, and a home guard constable guarding the women’s compartment in the local trains -- have been defying societal constraints and patriarchal mindsets each night when they go to work.

The Swaddle has launched a unique documentary podcast series, ‘The Night Shift,’ on October 8, 2018. This four-episode narrative journalism podcast series dives into everyday stories from the lives of these four Mumbai women who work through the night, breaking boundaries that society has traditionally set on women’s mobility, morality, and sexuality.

The podcasts, created by journalist Kunal Purohit over the course of three months, follow the lives of these women to find out what it means to be waging these battles every day. These women’s professional lives have transformed their personal lives. A sense of independence has enabled these women to challenge patriarchy within their own homes and communities.

One episode follows Nisha, who drives a radio cab through the night and sleeps in the cab alone. For Ranjana, the bouncer, night work means walking back home alone at 4am each day. Rozy, the bar dancer, feels the safest when she is inside the dance bar, where she is empowered to fight back against men, if needed. The Home Guard constable, Suvarna, believes that fighting off druggies and hooligans on locals trains each night has made her tougher and more independent.

Rather than being vulnerable in the night, these women are redefining their own boundaries.

For Kunal Purohit, a journalist who has written extensively on gender issues, this was an opportunity to highlight the everyday feminism that lives around us. “Far away from the din on social media, these are women who have set examples for men and women around them and have transformed mindsets through their own examples. Yet, they are seldom recognised and celebrated.”

Karla Bookman, the founder and editor of The Swaddle says, “As a publication, one of our aims is get people to rethink some of their assumptions about women’s roles in the family and society. People tend to think of dismantling patriarchal norms as something that is necessarily done loudly. Sometimes, it is. But these four women illustrate the power of each individual to upend gender stereotypes and change the way those around her think about her place in the world, through the seemingly mundane act of going to work.”

What made this journey so much more exciting was the audio format. Bookman says, “We could have printed these women’s stories. But hearing directly from them – hearing their passion, their humour, their grit, and their laughter – in their own voices, was really important.”

Purohit, who initially felt that it might be challenging to capture these intimate stories on audio, “especially because we, Indian media consumers, are so accustomed to associating stories with images. Interestingly, the form made it so liberating for many of these stories to be told especially because the recorder is unobtrusive and invisible, unlike the camera,” says Purohit.

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