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    How Harvard's Indian-American Community Is Starting A Global Movement Against Objectification

    "We want to take on the daunting task of changing how people think," founder Disha Verma told BuzzFeed.

    Tiana Abdulmassih, emBODYindia

    Disha Verman, Harvard Class of 2015

    Tiana Abdulmassih, emBODYindia

    Upasna Sharma, Harvard Class of 2015

    Tiana Abdulmassih, emBODYindia

    Namrata Narain, Havard Class of 2017

    In light of the recent controversy surrounding Deepika Padukone and her objectification by the Times Of India, President of the Harvard US-India Initiative Disha Verma and Harvard student Tiana Abdulmassih started a photo campaign for women's rights.

    The campaign, titled emBODYindia, asks people to highlight what bothers them most about cultures of objectification, and what changes they want to see in the treatment of women in the public domain.

    "We started as a group of Harvard students committed to conveying the simple message that a woman's body is her own, and her clothes are never an invitation," Verma told BuzzFeed in an email. "Our campaign is aimed at the Indian community, but our message is a global one."

    Tiana Abdulmassih, emBODYindia

    Ayesha Mangaldas, Harvard Class of 2017

    Tiana Abdulmassih, emBODYindia

    Eshaan Patheria, Harvard Class of 2018

    Tiana Abdulmassih, emBODYindia

    Harvard Student of Design, Class of 2016

    Tiana Abdulmassih, emBODYindia

    Rakesh Khurana, Dean of Harvard College

    Tiana Abdulmassih, emBODYindia

    Radhika Rastogi, Harvard College Class of 2015

    Tiana Abdulmassih, emBODYindia

    Aditya Prasad, Harvard College Class of 2017

    Verma felt that, being at Harvard and in the United States, her ability to make an impact on the ground in India is often constrained. "But with the recent incident of a huge newspaper refusing to understand that a woman's portrayal of her body doesn't mean she's 'asking for it', we decided to step it and get our message across."

    After the success of their campaign, they are now partnering with No Country For Women and fundraising for them, where all the proceeds will go to women's charities in India.

    Tiana Abdulmassih, being a photojournalist, approached this project with the same intensity that she did while photographing the Boston Marathon in 2013, emphasising that she did it because she knew it was that important. "We emailed students in the US-India Initiative that night, spent the next two days shooting, and then published on Tumblr by midnight," she told BuzzFeed via email.

    Tiana Abdulmassih, emBODYindia

    Tiana Abdulmassih, Harvard College Class of 2015

    Tiana Abdulmassih, emBODYindia

    Sudheer Poluru, Harvard College Class of 2015

    Tiana Abdulmassih, emBODYindia

    Karishma Shah, Harvard College Class of 2017

    Tiana Abdulmassih, emBODYindia

    Sachin Patel, Harvard Class of 2015

    Tiana Abdulmassih, emBODYindia

    Kanika Sharma, Harvard Graduate School of Design, Class of 2015

    Tiana Abdulmassih, emBODYindia

    Adam Ganik, Harvard Class of 2015

    "We want to undertake the daunting task of changing how people think," Verma said. "Yes, we need better laws. Yes, we need better security. Those would be effective, but they don't change the roots of the problem – and that is how people think about a woman in relation to her body. It's the very basic premise of a woman's ownership of herself that we need to accept."

    She also said that the campaign has received a lot of attention by the foreign media, as well as dozens of messages from people who support the cause and want to join in.

    Tiana Abdulmassih, emBODYindia
    Tiana Abdulmassih, emBODYindia
    Tiana Abdulmassih, emBODYindia

    Christine Mansour, Harvard Class of 2015

    Tiana Abdulmassih, emBODYindia

    Kristen Faulkner, Harvard College Class of 2015

    Tiana Abdulmassih, emBODYindia
    Tiana Abdulmassih, emBODYindia

    Bethany, Cabot House Tutor

    When asked if soliciting student participation was difficult, Abdulmassih said, "The hard part wasn't a matter of convincing students to join in as much as it was trying to make time to photograph all the people that volunteered. Even the Dean of Harvard College let me take his photograph holding up a sign saying 'Women's rights are human rights'. The support has been overwhelming."

    Abdulmassih explained that the first round of photographs were just of Indian students, including herself.

    She also added, "The second round we published includes students of all nationalities. I'm actually not Indian at all, I'm Lebanese... We know this is a global problem and our message extends beyond India."

    The global relevance of this project and its message are evidenced by the fact that, very quickly, people across the world joined in, submitting their own messages.

    Tiana Abdulmassih, emBODYindia

    Chitkara University, North India

    Tiana Abdulmassih, emBODYindia

    Pathways World School, Aravali

    Tiana Abdulmassih, emBODYindia

    International College For Girls, Jaipur

    Tiana Abdulmassih, emBODYindia

    IIT, Delhi

    Tiana Abdulmassih, emBODYindia
    Tiana Abdulmassih, emBODYindia

    Check out the emBODYindia project in its entirety here, and to support their cause you can click here

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