Aishwarya Rai Bachchan in Dubai
Aishwarya Rai Bachchan in Dubai Image Credit: Viren Saklani

Bollywood A-lister Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Egyptian powerhouse Mona Zaki, Hollywood talent Aja Naomi King and Saudi Arabian singer-actress Aseel Omran united forces to speak up for women empowerment at the Expo 2020 Dubai grounds on October 5.

The powerful quartet, who have done remarkably well in their own entertainment industry, urged men, women, and children to stand tall in the face of sexual harassment in public spaces.

Rai Bachchan, who was welcomed with thunderous applause, spoke about bystanders mutely watching as a woman is harassed as 'unacceptable'. Their lack of reaction to a crime was disturbing.

“We simply cannot accept raising our daughters in a world where people witness the absolutely unacceptable behaviour and look away because they do not know what to do,” said Bachchan. The face of cosmetic company L’Oreal Paris also presented grim statistics about how widespread issue of harassment. She was at the Expo 2020 to kickstart a training programme at the grounds directed at educating women on how to handle such nasty episodes.

“Did you know that 80 percent of women around the world have been harassed at least once in their lives in a public space? And, I won’t be surprised if that’s a conservative assessment,” said Rai Bachchan, reading out the figures from a paper in front of her. Rai Bachchan, a consummate actress, and a global icon has a young daughter and is married into one of the most influential acting dynasties in Bollywood.

“We are here today to raise awareness and encourage dialogue on a very important global topic – protecting women and protecting a woman’s sense of self-worth. I am here to shed light on the prevalence of street harassment towards women,” added Rai Bachchan.

Her brief appearance was preceded by a panel discussion featuring Egyptian star Zaki, King, and Omran.

“I have never met a woman or a girl who hasn’t been harassed on the streets … As a woman remember never to doubt your self-worth or take the blame,” said Zaki.

King, who is known for her role in ‘How To Get Away With Murder’, also spoke about how women are stereotyped.

“When I started to work in my industry I was told women are so catty … But I just feel lucky because I have witnessed so much sisterhood. Today, we stand alongside each other,” said King.

All the women also reminded their fans to be authentic and never to feel apologetic about their dignity being trodden upon.

Aja Naomi King, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and
Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Aja Naomi King, Aseel Omran Image Credit: Viren Saklani

Saudi Arabian singer Omran also urged women to be together in solidarity.

“Let’s not give those perpetrators a chance to survive. As women, let’s all stand together,” said Omran.

The brief celebrity appearances were followed by training for Expo2020 Dubai guests on how to protect themselves and demonstrated how bystanders can help a distressed woman in the face of harassment in public spaces.