Empowerment Through Indian Clothing (The Experiment Leadership Institute | India: Community Development and Public Health)

Out of all the clothing I have put onto my body, I have never felt more empowered, supported, and comfortable than I do in a kurta. This is something I never expected myself to say before I left for India. A kurta, to our standards, is a long shirt which typically has longer sleeves and is normally paired with loose-fitting pants and a thin scarf. Kurtas come in nearly every color and pattern.

I have been grateful to be able to understand a culture other than my own; I knew before leaving that I would be looking at India through my own set of colored glasses. I think many people in my community, and those I have been surrounded around have a very strong opinion about “oppressive” clothing. I knew before I left there was another story to this strong, common, westernised opinion with which I grew up. I did not go into this Experiment wanting to find the answer, but the answer came to me nearly immediately. Within the first couple days of being in New Delhi, we went to the Indian version of H&M to buy more suitable clothing. I do not know what I was expecting before I went shopping, but as I walked in, everything hit me. I instantly became focused on picking out the clothing of my favorite colors and patterns. I tried on clothing differently; I was not as focused on how it looked on my body, but how it made me feel. The feeling I felt as I walked on the streets of Delhi wearing a kurta while hearings the constant honking of cars and rickshaws and being surrounded by the warm heat is one I will never forget. Wearing a kurta makes me feel strong and powerful. Wearing a kurta makes me feel as if people look at me for me and not for my body. Wearing a kurta makes me feel as though I could conquer the world and jump over all obstacles. Wearing a kurta makes me feel exactly the opposite of “oppressed;” I feel free.




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