• Zerbanoo Gifford: Feisty, Fearless and Fun

    Zerbanoo Gifford’s life has been a unique blend of the east and the west. Born in India, she grew up to be one of the most (first Indian) powerful women in British Parliament. Her understanding of society developed quite early on, when she collected money in London for the poor in Pune and sent it to Jawahar Lal Chacha Nehru. She has built on it ever since, and  tirelessly. Her contributions have been in areas of human rights, charity, politics and research, amongst the many good things that she does on an everyday basis. An Indian woman with political power amongst our colonisers, let’s see how Zerbanoo’s experiences shaped her thoughts:

    1. What were your greatest challenges growing up as a non-white woman in the west?

    The greatest challenge was not to allow myself to fall into the trap of being stereotyped. Asian women then were seen as doormats, someone who cooked curries all day or an enchantress full of Eastern Promise. I had to stay true to myself, my heritage and destiny regardless of skewed expectations.

    2. You are the first non-white woman councillor of the Liberal Party- how has your journey been?

    My political journey like most politicians had moments of joy but on the whole was sorrowful. Making political history in the footsteps of my hero Dadabhai Naoroji was thrilling. But like Dadabhai I had to suffer overt and subtle racism.  The violence and venom of the racist British National party to the snide unwelcoming attitude of the so called Liberals. Both in their own unattractive ways ruthlessly determined to sideline and silence me.

    Zerbanoo Gifford speaks with SheThePeople.TV

    Zerbanoo Gifford speaks with SheThePeople.TV

    After many years of battling on trying to empower the powerless ad enlighten the powerful I gave myself permission to take another more fulfilling journey. I became a campaigner for the disfranchised who inevitably were women, the poor, the homeless, slaves, those with disabilities and the misunderstood young. Politics had been a wonderful train ground on how to take on lies, corruption and short-sighted of those that claim to represent us. It made me strong and ready for the good fight.

    3. What do you think is the one common issue that affects all women equally, irrespective of their race, religion or class?

    Lack of confidence as to their true abilities to be change makers and to say together enough is enough, we insist that we all live in a fairer more equal and kinder world.

    4. What are the biggest challenges that a woman in the political arena should be prepared to face?

    Women’s representation and true equality is the final frontier for everyone of us.  If we can land on the moon, crack our DNA, be instantly in touch with each other surely we can deal with certain male egos, their arrogance and stupidity in thinking women are inferior. Those in power never want to change the status quo. They like it as it is with them holding the power, the wealth and the ability to tell others how it is and should be.  Recently they have allowed a few favoured women to sneak into positions of power but they have extracted so much from them for the so called honour. The world needs women in equal numbers with men to hold power, and to guide our world with their wisdom. Anything else is an indictment on us all.

    Lack of confidence as to their true abilities to be change makers and to say together enough is enough, we insist that we all live in a fairer more equal and kinder world. 

    5. Do you see any change in the gender struggle in the past few years? What are the most pressing gender issues in these times?

    I have seen in my lifetime a dramatic change in the lives of educated women who have most areas of life open to them if they wish to pursue their ambitions. But I have also been witness to women subjected to sickening poverty and oppression sink with little help for their dreams.

    I believe the most pressing issues are good affordable childcare, education that helps people become more understanding and proactive, and the stop to mindless violence towards women which should be the top priority for any sane man or woman.

    If we can land on the moon, crack our DNA, be instantly in touch with each other surely we can deal with certain male egos, their arrogance and stupidity in thinking women are inferior

     

    6. What do you think is lacking in our everyday understanding of feminism and gender issues?

    Understanding gender issues is for both men and women. No one should want to bring up the next generation in an unequal, uncaring, dysfunctional society.  We need to listen carefully to what is really being said by women. We need to more generous with our time and gifts and share them with other women and especially the young. We need to challenge the mindset that thinks that things are fine and let’s keep our heads down. Things are not fine and it is time to see real action for half the world.

    We need to challenge the mindset that thinks that things are fine and let’s keep our heads down. Things are not fine and it is time to see real action for half the world.

     

    7. What is true empowerment, according to you?

    True empowerment is having a dynamic heart that includes other’s empowerment as well as your own. All you can take from life is what you have given away.

    8. Are women pursuing leadership roles as sure of themselves as their male counterparts? What do you think are the possible reasons?

    Many men and women still think that leaders should be men because they have been brainwashed into thinking leaders need a male brain, controlled male aggression and should wear trousers!

    In fact 21st century leaders need a balance of male and female qualities and abilities.  They must also have the feminine attributes of soft power, ability to seek consensus and commitment to community betterment if they are to be relevant in our fast moving world.

     

    9. What, according to you, could be more peaceful ways/ means to create a balance of power between genders?

    Change society and our way of behaving so that we value the importance of the female principle and the need for men and women to share wealth, power and the good times.  

    Success is to find your unique way to serve others and not to be distracted by fame, fortune or your fantasies. 

    10. Do you think the situation of women in India is different from Britain? How?

    In many respects Indian women are more engaged in the feminine agenda. They are tackling past prejudices which have held them back. There is extraordinary courage and determination to stop traditional arrogance that has cruelly limited women’s lives. They are taking positions of power in a more calm way.

    In the West women are realising they don’t really want to play the men’s games.  In their droves they are deciding to set up their own businesses, networks and are enjoying taking care of their loved ones and their own sanity.

    I have seen from my research and interviews of dynamic women and those subjected to crushing unfulfilling lives worldwide that women who were the forgotten sex will no longer be sidelined, short-changed or silenced. They know things will have to change and change soon. I am inspired by them.

    11. How do you define true success?

    Success is to find your unique way to serve others and not to be distracted by fame, fortune or your fantasies. 

    Zerbanoo is speaking at the TimesLitFest in December in Mumbai.