By Daniela Olariu (RSJ ’17)

When Arti Patel, Nikkjit Gill and Roohi Sahajpal were all students in the School of Journalism, they recall they saw few women of colour, especially South Asian women, in the journalism industry.

They were determined to do something to champion and support women so, earlier this year, Patel (RSJ ‘11), Gill (RSJ ‘11) and Sahaijpal (RSJ ‘12) founded Didihood, “a space for South Asian women working in the media, art and creative industries to connect, work together and inspire the next generation of brown girls to follow their dreams.”

The three friends returned to the RSJ in mid-November to hold a Didihood event, a workshop for students, recent grads and first-time writers on freelancing and story pitching.

What inspired you, Nikki and Roohi to create Didihood?

Patel: Didihood was an idea that we sat on for six years. We knew we always wanted to appeal to South Asian women, but we were never sure how to get started. At one point we debated the idea of a podcast, online magazine, newsletter and website.

In 2017, I attended a panel focused on women and their careers and I came home and told Nikki and Roohi I was going to do a call out on Twitter. I sent out a tweet that year and it just blew up — I was getting messages from women in all kinds of industries in the media, so we knew we had landed on something big.

Didihood has now transformed into a networking, mentorship and social network, as well as content from our newsletter and social media pages.

What does Didihood mean?

Gill: “Didi” means older sister in many South Asian languages. So Didihood, essentially means sisterhood.

How has Didihood changed since it first launched?

Gill: The biggest changes we’ve noticed are our organic growth and the sense of community that has come from the collective. Didihood first started as a simple tweet from Arti’s account asking other South Asian women in creative fields if they wanted to form a collective. Since then, we’ve hosted five events that range from a launch party to a panel at Twitter Canada.

What is the ultimate goal/vision for Didihood?

Gill: Didihood has three main pillars — networking, community and mentorship. Each of our events this year has included a networking portion, and each has played an integral role in building a sense of community between our Didis who come out and engage in our events. Our next focus is to launch our mentorship program in 2019. On our website (didihood.com), we have a page called “Become A Didi” where people can sign up to join the mentorship program as either a mentor and mentee. They can identify what field they work in or are interested in working in, and we’ll be working to create partnerships between the mentors and mentees.

Tell us about the event at RSJ on November 14:

Gill: Arti moderated a panel that included myself, Lisa Yeung  and Bee Quammie. I spoke about receiving pitches as a magazine editor with a readership that is hyper-local as we are a community magazine. Lisa spoke from the perspective of an editor of an online publication with a national audience. And Bee spoke from the perspective of a full-time freelancer who formulates pitches for a variety of publications.

We started with a panel discussion (and) then we asked the participants to form three small groups and to come up with a story pitch. After about 15 minutes, we had one member from each group present their pitch to the panel. Each of the panelists then gave feedback on each pitch, along with ideas on what types of publications they could pitch it to and sources they could reach out to.

What kind of questions were students asking?

Patel: We had a mix of everything. Students were asking how to pitch, when to pitch and what to include when they pitch a story. Also, what they should and shouldn’t tweet about and how to pitch stories about diversity and inclusion in larger newsrooms. We had a ton of questions about story structure, format and even how much freelancers get paid.

How have previous events been and when are you planning your next one?

Gill: Our events have been a great success both in Toronto and Vancouver. Roohi is currently collaborating with another group in Vancouver to host a screening of the documentary Matangi / Maya / M.I.A., and we are also partnering with Brown Girl Magazine to host a panel about #MeToo in the South Asian community which is set to take place in March 2019 in Toronto.

 

(This interview has been edited and condensed.)