It was on a Sunday afternoon when the idea came to me after I heard a TED talk by Shabana Basij from Afghanistan. It was an extraordinary experience. I felt something had permanently changed inside me. Over the next few days, I watched that talk over and over. Her honesty, her simplicity, and power of narration moved me.
Shabana grew up in Afghanistan during the Taliban regime. Despite all odds, her father never lost the courage to fight for her education. He used to say, “People can take away everything from you except your knowledge”. Shabana’s story gave me a strong impulse to do something but I didn’t know ‘what’ and ‘how’. That’s when my red sketchbook and pencil caught my eye. Before I’d even realized it, I had taken my first step.
I illustrated Shabana’s story and posted it on Facebook. It was an impulsive reaction. I found Shabana’s contact and shared the illustration with her. Shabana was so touched that she forwarded it to her students, and then I started getting emails from a lot of other Afghan men! The emails were a note of thanks as they felt someone was trying to showcase Afghan men in a positive light.
I realized that if there are so many positive father-daughter stories in Afghanistan, just imagine the positive stories across the world! My journey had started. I started looking for moving father-daughter stories from across the globe. Some I found, some found me. With every discovery, my desire to create art for people kept growing.
“My Father illustrations” stands for the girl who is one among the 62 million girls in the world who are currently not in school, the girl who is part of the 15 million girls married every year before the age of 18, the girl who is aborted like another 12 million female foetuses in India, and the girl who became one of the 500 acid attack survivors in South Asia (in 2015).
Under these scenarios when I asked, “who can make a difference in these girls’ lives?” One of the answers I found was “a father can!” As a decision-maker in a patriarchal society, a father can celebrate the girl child’s birth, let her complete her education, invest in her further studies, protect her from different forms of abuse, and save her from becoming a child bride.
The stories of Monica Singh, Zahra Lari, or Muniba Mazari and their fathers are such real-life inspirations that the world needs to know more. Those fathers are braving the odds of patriarchy to protect the rights of their daughters. Their voices are to be heard and that is my mission through “My Father illustrations”.
DISCOVER THE HAPPINESS IN GIVING BACK
LOVE IS STRONGER THAN VIOLENCE
PICK THE RIGHT WAVE
WHERE THERE IS EDUCATION THERE IS HOPE
DEFENDERS OF THE PLANET
I HAVE A BLACK DOLL
I AM A CHANGEMAKER
(Written and illustrated by Debasmita Dasgupta. Debasmita is an illustrator & an arts-for-change advocate based in Singapore. Besides her busy schedule of visual storytelling consulting for publishers & organizations across Asia, she runs the ongoing campaign of My Father illustrations to promote girl child rights by amplifying the voices of fathers who fearlessly fight to protect the rights of their daughters. Debasmita also organizes Doodle with Dad, a community-based series of art camps for fathers and daughters to sensitize the fathers about the rights of their daughters.)