The global icon fighting for societal change

The global icon fighting for societal change

Shah Rukh Khan. King Khan. SRK. Whichever name you know him by, there’s a fair chance you’ll know him as a superstar – a veteran of more than 80 films. But did you know there’s another side to the iconic actor?

Recently in Melbourne for the Indian Film Festival of Melbourne (IFFM), Mr Khan also visited La Trobe to receive an Honorary Degree, Doctor of Letters (honoris causa), for his personal commitment to humanitarian causes.

Mr Khan says he’s honoured to have his humanitarian efforts recognised in Australia for the first time.

I’m proud to be conferred with a great University like La Trobe, which has a long-standing relationship with Indian culture and impressive track record in advocating for women’s equality.

Shah Rukh Khan

Mr Khan has received numerous accolades, both in his native India and abroad, as IFFM founder and director Mitu Bhowmick Lange explains.

‘He’s been awarded a knighthood (Datuk) of Malaysia, had the highest honour in France, and now he’s received an Honorary Doctorate at La Trobe – I think that speaks volumes.’

A passionate activist, Mr Khan has used his global profile to champion change through campaigns such as Pulse Polio and the National AIDS Control Organisation. He’s on the board of directors of India’s Make-A-Wish Foundation and in 2011, he received UNESCO’s Pyramide con Marni award for his charitable commitment to provide education for children.
And yet, it’s a side he manages to keep relatively low key.

‘Shah Rukh’s charity is not spoken about, and it’s only at moments like this you actually hear about the work his Meer Foundation does,’ Mitu says.

Established in 2013, the Foundation’s goal is to effect change at ground level and create a world that empowers women. It includes the support of female victims of acid attacks and burn injuries by supporting institutions who provide medical treatment, legal aid and vocational training as well as rehabilitation and livelihood support.

Beyond these efforts, the Foundation’s work is wide-ranging. It has supported victims of the devastating 2018 Kerala floods, organised health camps and sponsored treatment and surgeries for women and children across India – all as part of its efforts to build a safer world for women.

On the Foundation’s website, Mr Khan states: ‘Through Meer, I believe we can help women who have been treated unfairly by creating a network of support. In the past year alone, I have seen the Foundation’s immense potential to better lives and change the future. We have only just begun, and we plan to grow even stronger, ultimately helping the dream become a reality.’

The vision for the Meer Foundation was inspired by Mr Khan’s father, Meer Taj Mohammed Khan. Mr Khan describes his father: ‘The most gentle, compassionate, and kind man that I have known. His interactions with women were always based on a foundation of respect and kindness, and this is what I remember most about him.’

Mitu observed these qualities in Mr Khan when she worked alongside him on the set of the 2007 film Chak De! India, where he played the coach of the Indian women’s hockey team.

‘The girls were understandably a bit nervous. Shah Rukh was so sweet. He intentionally kept forgetting his lines and making mistakes so the other girls wouldn’t feel so intimidated,’ she says.

As you would expect, Mitu is quite excited about Mr Khan’s upcoming visit.

‘I don’t think words can describe the kind of joy and happiness we all feel. For him to take the time out and come all the way to Australia – we are just so very appreciative and grateful,’ she exclaims.

The Shah Rukh Khan La Trobe University PhD Scholarship recognises Mr Khan’s humanitarian and social justice achievements inspiring communities across the world to make positive change. This research scholarship aims to deliver a life-changing opportunity for an aspiring female researcher from India to make a meaningful impact in the world.

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