If we publish on gender and sexuality, will we succeed in attracting and retaining readers? Three years ago, even as the very first Vartanama article (About Intimate Dreams!) was being penned, these were some of the doubts flitting about in the Varta team’s mind. The team, and Varta as an organization, itself was in a nebulous stage.
We didn’t want to inhabit a myth, or make claims that ours was the only initiative of its kind. But what we were sure about was the need for dialogue on gender and sexuality in a way that would not seem ‘more of the same’. We wanted an eclectic and inclusive conversation that acknowledged the amazing arc of gender and sexuality – from intimate dreams, individual aspirations, social health and developmental imperatives, on to the larger goal of social equity.
We aimed to look at gender and sexuality through the prism of intersections with our day-to-day worries and challenges – be it around class, caste or religion; sexual and reproductive health, HIV, disability or mental health; education or even livelihood and social security. But we didn’t want the dialogue to be confined to people usually seen to be talking about these issues – human rights activists and academics; neither did we want to pander to stereotypes and commercial considerations often visible in the mass media all around us.
Well, did we succeed? After 232 posts, more than 58,000 pageviews from across India and the world, and 249 comments on our earlier site (blog) at varta2013.blogspot.in, we would say that we’re surely on our way, and isn’t that the sweetest part of a journey!
Numbers apart, what makes us the happiest is that we try to put in considerable thought into each of the posts in Varta so as to relate them closely to our goals and objectives. The same thought process is also behind columns like Insight, Happenings, From the Archives, Qatha, Clickhappy! and several others. All these and more will continue on the Varta webzine on a monthly basis.
But now there’s more to Varta, the organization, than just Varta, the webzine! Gradually, we have expanded also our non-publishing activities around awareness generation, research, advocacy and training. Check out the links in the dropdown menu on this site.
As we embark on a new phase, we’re conscious about the limitations of Varta’s reach to the wider audiences we seek – English language, need for Internet access, and inadequate accessibility to people with disabilities being the primary ones. While our non-publishing activities help us scale some of these hurdles, it will be our effort also to make the content, format and accessibility of the webzine and other publications more democratic. With your feedback and contributions, there’s no reason why we won’t succeed!
About the photograph: Keeping alive the dream! From the Varta files – this photograph was published in the first Vartanama article in August 2013. Photo credit: Vahista Dastoor