Known as the universal language, music has long been used as a vehicle for activism. Artists and musicians all over the world have used their songs to comment on and bring awareness to social issues, politics, and human rights abuses, hoping to get listeners to take action and invoke change.
India’s female rock band Meri Zandagi has the same goals in mind.
Fighting gender inequality through music, Meri Zandagi, meaning “My Life” in Hindi, use their songs to tackle social issues that are most prevalent to women in India today, such as child marriage, female infanticide, and domestic violence.
“We don’t perform only to entertain. We perform to create awareness and sensitize people on the issues that women encounter and to empower girls to follow their dreams,” lead singer Jaya Tiwari told the South China Morning Post.
Tiwari, who is also the band’s founder and lyricist, was first inspired to write songs about gender inequality while working as a radio DJ in her home state of Uttar Pradesh. She lived near an orphanage, where the majority of the children adopted were boys.
Seeing these girls remain orphans for years, while the boys got adopted, inspired her to form an all-female band and produce songs that empower women and girls in a world embedded with gender bias and inequality.
Many of Meri Zandagi’s songs have gone viral on social media.
One song, titled “Mairi mera byah na rachana,” asks mothers not to force their young daughters to get married. The lyrics bring awareness to child marriage — which affects 12 million girls across the world every year, according to UNICEF.
Another song about female infanticide, the deliberate killing of female children, called “Teri galiyon main na aayenge kabhi, is raat ke baad,” gained notoriety through BBC Media Action, Wateraid India, Breakthrough, UNICEF, and Mahila Samakhya.
To keyboardist Niharika Dubey, Meri Zandagi is more than just a band, but rather it is a “medium for girls to fulfill their dreams.”
“The band has given me a new lease of life. It has given me confidence, courage, and faith,” Dubey told the South China Morning Post.
In addition to using music as a tool for social change, Meri Zandagi regularly donates their proceeds to young girls seeking an education in Uttar Pradesh.
While their songs focus on issues most relevant to women, the band’s fanbase consists of both men and women.
“The issues that we raise affect not just women, but men as well,” Tiwari said. “At the end of the day, gender equality is not about shifting oppression from one group to the other. It is about eliminating it.”
So far, the band has released two albums, performed more than 150 shows, and appeared on several national radio and television programs.