Inspirational story about gender-inclusive making

Nidhi Mittal
Designer, India

Nidhi has more than one answer to our question about her background. Her hunger for exploration makes her invest in many different projects. She is a UX and visual designer and when she designs, she always works from a user and community perspective. When she works with students she thinks about the future and how she should educate young people accordingly. She is the co-founder of a project called “Digitally speaking”, which is a smart underwear for women’s safety. Out of curiosity and love for tangible materials she started a project called Biotex (bio plastics), exploring alternative ways of producing sustainable and ecological material. She also offers workshops related to sustainable material production and travels around the world to present her smart garment project.

“I feel that as women we face gender-specific issues, but if we break those barriers we get support from other makers and people will join that movement.”

Nidhi did face many barriers but it never came from a point of “her being a woman and not able to do it.” She was lucky to find enough support from the people around her and from the communities that she is involved with. The community of makers has always been warmly welcoming to her, and never reflected the gender bias which she faced in other ways in her life.

The barriers she faced had other sources. She describes herself as a very unconventional person and this is where the barriers come from. She remembers not getting enough support in college from mentors and peers when she wanted to do a smart garment project for her thesis. She was ridiculed for not taking the conventional path and designing a garment that mitigates the issue of gender-based violence.

“I truly believed in my instincts, and I knew that this idea was worth striving for. And when I look back, I am so glad for not giving up, because this project received so much recognition worldwide and I have been able to present my project to a larger audience across the globe”, she says today.

Nidhi stresses that if we want to increase the number of women in makerspaces we first have to increase the awareness for makerspaces and introduce females to the possibilities of making. In this regard, it would be great to have accessible makerspaces in schools and universities, as these spaces would then generate curiosity in women to participate.

The maker movement in India does a lot of great work by providing all the necessary tools – both hardware and software – to students and very young kids,  who come from lower socio-economics and poorer villages.

“I find the concept of makerspaces really cool and think that they can bring a big change” she finally says.

Message to her younger self:

I would tell her that she did a great job by never quitting and taking all the different ways no matter how hard the journey was. She gave herself a future by the confidence she had in herself and by being motivated enough to take the chance.“