Nishara Antony is an extraordinary Trailwalker. She has walked the Oxfam Trailwalker, twice until now, not just for equality and to end discrimination but also to set an example of how social bullying and prejudices can be countered with sheer determination.
45-year-old Antony has faced discrimination due to her skin colour for most of her life. But not only did she fight it, but she is also helping others fight it too. A yoga teacher, she now inspires others to fight social prejudices and be their best selves. So, this year’s first edition of the virtual trailwalker #WalkForHer has a personal significance for her.
“When I was younger, I was almost five shades darker than I am now. I was discriminated against by my extended family members and in school. I loved dancing and singing as a child and it was my favourite form of self-expression but I was never selected because of my skin colour,” Antony recalls.
As she grew older she had brushes with blatant discrimination because of her skin tone and how social prejudices of a certain category of people being dark was so deep-rooted and often without reason or logic. Rampant colourism around the world, including in India, comes from the belief that fair is better than dark.
“Every time there was a play or a performance about tribals, I was called to part. This blatant inherent colourism really bothered me initially. But as I grew older, I became bolder and stronger. I stood up against it and fought it. My attitude was ‘what the fair kids can do, I could do better!’ I became quite competitive and this translated into my passion for fitness. This gave me the confidence to deal with discrimination, both at a personal level and around me.”
Antony adds, “Dark skin is stigmatized thanks to the prejudices peddled by all the beauty products and models. But certainly, times have changed and more and more dark-skinned women are out there at the forefront, owning their beauty, self-worth, power, and intelligence.”
Over the years, having a sense of purpose has helped her rise above these petty issues. As she says, “When I participate in Oxfam Trailwalker, I feel as if I'm reaching out to women and doing my bit to eradicate the inequalities they have to deal with. I even urge more women to participate this year because we must stand up for each other.”
Oxfam India's first edition of 2021 Virtual Trailwalker Challenge will be held in 2 parts — first, between 25 February and 6 March and second, between 8 March and 17 March and offers three challenges for the participants to choose from-they can complete either 100 km, 50 km or 25 km in 10 days. This year's first walkathon #WalkForHer is a tribute to all women who not only have to fight gender inequality at every stage of their lives but also those who bore the worst brunt of lockdown in 2020 in terms of loss of jobs, facing domestic violence, and disrupted education. For Oxfam India, a non-profit organisation working to support child education, empowering women, and advocating against inequality, the Trailwalker Challenge has been one of the unique ways to involve people in important conversations as well as fund-raising.