Congratulations to Rita Meher, Globalist of the Year!

Seattle South Asian Film Festival founder Rita Meher. (Photo by Shikha Jain)
Tasveer founder Rita Meher, 2015 Globalist of the Year. (Photo by Shikha Jain)

The Seattle Globalist is thrilled to announce our Third Annual Globalist of the Year, Tasveer co-founder Rita Meher.

“I’m really honored that this work is recognized and it’s starting to be seen,” says Rita.

As a filmmaker and one of the founders of Seattle’s Tasveer for more than 13 years, Rita has flipped negative perceptions of South Asians in a post-9/11 world, brought Seattle greater understanding on commonly misunderstood issues in South Asian countries, created a strong platform for marginalized voices and sparked breakthrough dialogue on “hush-hush” issues among local South Asian communities.

“[Tasveer and Rita] really are taking that premise of how advocacy, storytelling and community development fit together, and really demonstrating it in a quite superb way,” says Globalist Board Vice President Anita Verna Crofts, the Associate Director of Academic Affairs for University of Washington’s Communication Leadership graduate program.

Rita will be honored with the Globalist of the Year award at our Third Annual Globie Awards dinner on Saturday, Sept. 26 at Club Sur in Seattle’s SoDo neighborhood. The award recognizes outstanding people leading grassroots projects that positively impact international communities in Seattle and abroad, a rare opportunity for this type of work to get the spotlight it deserves.

In service of community development, social justice and advocacy, Rita, with Tasveer co-founder Farah Nousheen, premiered and built Seattle South Asian Film Festival (SSAFF) and Aaina: South Asian Women’s Focus. The latter, which showcases art and activism of local South Asian women and facilitates empowering dialogue through workshops, saw its 10th anniversary this year, featuring a South Asian adaptation of “The Vagina Monologues.”

Together, these programs have touched countless lives and made the Northwest a global center for South Asian feminism during a critical point in world affairs and Seattle’s diversifying social landscape.

The most rewarding part about Rita’s work is seeing perceptions change in her community over the years.

“Many people would say [when Tasveer first started], ‘Why would you want to see downer films or create such sad programs and show the bad side of our community? Why do you want to highlight those problems here?’” she remembers. “Now, people are really proud of coming to them, and I really see them getting engaged in our audience conversation and post-film conversation.’”

Some even tell Rita that Tasveer, which means “picture” in Urdu and Hindi, has changed their lives, including one women, a sexual abuse survivor, who initially shrugged Tasveer off as a feminist organization. Once she saw artists perform at Aaina, she decided to join its five-month workshop program. By the end of it, she was  sharing her sexual abuse story onstage in “Yoni Ki Baat,” a South Asian version of “The Vagina Monologues.”

It is moments like these that Rita knows her work is done.

“The audience is very supportive nowadays, and they don’t ask those questions, like ‘Why do you have to call it a vagina?”… you start noticing that those kind of questions aren’t coming up,” she says.

Just like Seattle Globalist, we’re putting out those topics that wouldn’t be seen in mainstream media, that tackle everything and bring diversity and a global perspective, not just one narrow perspective from the Pacific Northwest.”

Celebrate Globalist of the Year Rita Meher, a spectacular year for The Globalist and our outstanding writers on Saturday, Sept. 26 in SoDo’s Club Sur, featuring delicious Cuban fare, Latin dancing and musical acts. 

Reserve your tickets today. 

This story was updated from its original publication to reflect that Rita Meher co-founded Tasveer with Farah Nousheen.