What if we centred women's joy & leisure? — issue #41

What if we centred women's joy & leisure? — issue #41


I have a confession to make. I am obsessed with true crime. I listen to podcasts about murders and other violent crimes while on the bus, out for my Hot Girl Walks, and even when I’m brushing my teeth. (My Spotify Wrapped was way more macabre than I wish to admit.)

Turns out, I’m not the only one. A study shows that women are more into true crime compared to men. One possible reason given is that they are trying to pick up survival techniques—sobering, when you consider that most victims and survivors of violent crime are women.

“As women living in a deeply patriarchal society, feeling unsafe and frightened is almost a constant state of mind,” says Mumbai-based counsellor Rhea Gandhi in a Vogue article.

This sentiment weighed on my mind when our team first discussed a story on women’s safety. The issue tends to position women as victims. What would happen if we wrote a story that centred women’s joy and leisure instead? It shouldn’t sound so radical, and yet it does.

Since it’s also International Women’s Day, we at Kontinentalist wanted to go beyond just spotlighting what women have achieved. Focusing on achievements is great, but it can also overvalorise success narratives at the expense of celebrating works in progress, and even trying and failing. We decided to soften our gaze on success. How do women just “be”?

Ironically, in today’s world, it takes work. For women to feel at ease, they often need to be free of something. That “something” could be the fear of what others might do or say, or their own daily responsibilities or thoughts holding themselves back. Yes, women’s leisure requires women’s labour.

But this also means that women are agents of change. Governments and society can definitely do more, but plenty of women, like Parveen Naz of community space Mehr Gahr in Karachi (who we featured in our latest story) can show them the way because they are already doing the work.

It’s no longer about what women do to survive, but what they do to create the conditions to truly thrive.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on this. What do you do for leisure? What kind of tunes do you chill out to? Tell us!
Editor of NFTE, Nabilah

International Women's Day Special
Inspired by our latest story on women's access to leisure and public spaces, our Community Manager, Samira, decided to do a little deep dive of her own into what the women at Kontinentalist do for leisure. Take a look at what she discovered about our eclectic group of colleagues—we take our leisure just as seriously as our work! We even created our very first Kontinentalist Spotify playlist, “Live, Love, Lepak”, featuring some of our favourite songs to chill-out to. You'll get a mix of everything from old school ‘90s bangers to fresh Kpop tunes​​—give it a listen and let us know if you want more music recommendations!

Oh, and just between us, we might have a little crowd-sourced surprise lined up where we'll take a closer look at the leisurely activities you engage in. Keep an eye on our social media and stay tuned for updates!
At the heart of Kontinentalist’s latest story lies the aspiration that every woman deserves to experience ease and respite in all public spaces. As the first collaboration between Kontinentalist and Khabar Lahariya—India's only women-run digital rural news network—this gave us the opportunity to look at how women in both urban and rural settings define public safety. The more we ventured into those conversations, the more it became clear that accessing leisure in public was not just gendered but also least discussed within Asian communities.

With our ambitions of uncovering how women in South and Southeast Asia view leisure and public safety, it’s perhaps unsurprising that this story involves the most number of partners across Asia that Kontinentalist has ever worked with for a single story. It’s also an all-women team effort!

Over a period of three months, we interviewed 12 organisations and representatives in more than 10 cities, and asked them: what does leisure in public spaces look like for women in your community?
Screenshot of a spreadsheet containing interviewees responses
This story (virtually) took us to Pakistan where young girls are cycling and boxing their way into public safety; India, where women are strolling at midnight to expand definitions of safety, and Khabar Lahariya’s reporters tackle unsafe conditions to report on-ground stories; Bangladesh, where artists and NGO workers are offering safe spaces through theatre; the Philippines, where biking and figure modelling are vehicles of freedom and self-expression for women; and Indonesia, where civil society groups are initiating larger policy discourses on women’s public safety. We sat with members of some of these organisations and listened to their challenges, solutions, and aspirations towards making public spaces not just safe, but easy and comfortable.
Screenshot of the Women's mobility story
As someone outside of the Konti team, I found that what lies at the heart of the remarkable quality of this collaboration is inclusivity, from the research we did, to the visual representation and writing. At points where we could’ve missed out on someone’s economic, social or physical background, one or more of the team members would point this out and make sure that the story showcases a diversity of experiences, bound by the underlying need to be free and safe.

Over a period of six months, we listened, enquired, and shared what public safety and leisure means for us—and rejoiced when various parts of the story finally began coming together as a whole. Writing this story has been a privilege, and I hope it helps us all work to make leisure for women in public spaces a common occurrence, and not just an aspiration.
Image of Mariyam Haider
Hoping to be found napping at a park bench next time,
— Mariyam Haider, freelance writer
...more from us
Cover image of Breaking into the boy's club: the rise of women in tech
Tech bros rule the startup world, but women are changing the game.
Cover image of Sexual Violence in Singapore
Sexual violence is a deadly threat to women’s safety. Sadly, in Singapore the home is where it takes place the most.


Stuff we love
Women’s slow and unrestricted joy is something we want to see more of, and Surabhi Yadav’s Women At Leisure documents just that.
Data Sketches’ Shirley Wu takes us through a gorgeous mountain landscape representing Hong Kong’s women artists.
Why do images of women resting rarely come to mind? It’s because they are doing most of the unpaid care work.
Two designers recorded how much they laughed, complained, and said goodbye each week. This analogue data exchange between women is one of our favourite projects.

Did you know?
Kalighat painting of an indian courtesan, 19th century
The Resistant Artist Courtesans
During the Mughal era in North India, courtesans called “tawaif” performed music, dance (“mujra”), theatre, and classical Urdu literature. They were considered the paradigms of etiquette, and were so highly respected that nobles sent their sons to study under their tutelage. With the British invasion and subsequent decline of the Mughal empire, tawaifs lost their royal status and came to be seen as prostitutes. Despite that, they continued to receive financial backing from their supporters. As the tawaifs regained their wealth and social status, they began to actively participate in revolts against the British East India Company by holding meetings and providing hideouts for anti-colonial rebels.