Art for Gender Equality in Mumbai, India

The Gender Equality mural painted by Joel Bergner, Krishna Sharma, and students from Sophia College


Every March 8th is International Women’s Day, a celebration of women around the world that takes place during Women’s History Month. While Meridian organizes exchanges for women leaders in various fields, for the past two years the Meridian Center for Cultural Diplomacy has used the arts – specifically the mural arts –  to directly address issues such as human trafficking, gender-based violence, empowerment, equality, and education that affect women and girls around the world.

From January 30th through February 25th, Brooklyn-based artist and activist Joel Bergner (alias Joel Artista), was in Mumbai, Siliguri, and Kolkata, India, on Meridian’s fifth Community Engagement through the Mural Arts exchange sponsored by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.


The program began in South Bombay’s Sitara Studio, where my wife, CJ, and I joined forces with local artist Krishna Sharma to facilitate the creation of a 40-foot canvas mural designed and painted with a group of 25 local students, to be displayed at one of India’s most prominent art festivals, Kala Ghoda.


Working with Indian partners DevelopmatriX and Safe Cities, Joel met with students from the all-women’s Sophia College to come up with a mural design.


After some ice-breakers and introductions, we had a group discussion about gender-based issues…They brought up issues of harassment, domestic violence, forced marriages, patriarchy in Indian society and shared personal stories of how gender inequality and sexism affected their lives.

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Drawing on group discussions and sketches, Joel created a design that embodies the struggle for gender equality. For four days, Joel and the students painted long hours to complete the mural in time for the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival opening.

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To learn about the mural design and its details, read Joel’s blog or watch this video of Joel discussing the project.

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This is one of several blogs we will post this month about how Meridian’s mural arts exchanges are helping to empower women and girls. Stay tuned for more on Joel’s exchange in India and from Philadelphia-based Paul Santoleri, who is currently in the Dominican Republic. And, in case you missed it when we first published it, check out this post about women-inspired murals from around the world.


All photos in this blog post were taken by Joel Bergner.