“The story of women’s struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organisation but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights” – Gloria Steinem, world-renowned feminist, journalist and social and political activist
International Women’s Day started as a part of the labour movement by women for equal pay, shorter working hours and suffrage rights. This movement is celebrated on March 8 every year, to express solidarity with women all over the world, and marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity. The theme for Women’s Day 2017 was #BeBoldForChange. To observe this day and support the women’s movement across the world, the women’s development cell of Daulat Ram College, University of Delhi, organised a day-long commemoration consisting of three events – a workshop by Goonj (an NGO), a street play and a seminar.
The first event of the day was the workshop conducted by Goonj, in which they discussed their initiative ‘Not Just A Piece Of Cloth‘. This initiative is an effort by the NGO to end the taboos and shame around menstruation. A discussion was held on the various taboos attached to it and the people were encouraged to share their personal experiences with everyone. During the workshop, various aspects of experiential realities came up.
One of the girls shared that in her family, there is a tradition of locking a woman up during her menstrual cycle. Many girls also shared their experience of getting teased at schools after staining their clothes. Not being able to talk to the male members of the family about menses or hiding it from them was also a common issue faced by the girls. To conclude the discussion, the moderator suggested that everyone should question these illogical norms in small ways. For example, by initiating conversations about taboos and myths at their own homes.
The street play titled ‘Ab Bas’ was performed by Memesis – the theatre society of DRC. It was held simultaneously with the workshop. The play portrayed the plight of women who experience or have borne the brunt of physical or mental harassment in their lives. It showed how often and in the numerous ways in which women get harassed on the streets every day. It also portrayed the hesitation of women to share these incidents, even with their friends and family. In consonance with the theme of Women’s Day, it also displayed the ways in which women can fight back and be bold for change.
The next event was the seminar on the theme of ‘Women Empowerment’. It consisted of three women speakers as panellists, who have excelled in their respective fields. These were Prof. Bina Agarwal, a prize-winning development economist and director and prof. of economics at the Institute of Economic Growth at the University of Delhi; Dr. Nikita Sobti- a senior consultant (Obstetrics & Gynaecology) at Max Super Speciality Hospital, Shalimar Bagh; and Miss Niyati M Kashyap, Delhi Police ACP, Sarai Rohilla.
Prof. Agarwal talked about the property rights of women in India. She briefed the audience about the transition of the Hindu Succession Act of 1956 over the years. She talked about how it took about 48 years to do away with discriminatory clauses with respect to agricultural property and joint family property. She also explained why it was necessary for women to have the right to property as it leads to higher employment rate, a decrease in domestic violence and higher productivity rates. During the Q&A, she also commented on the hostel curfew timings existing due to social norms and not due to the law. She ended her talk remembering the phenomenal Bodhgaya movement launched by the Chhatra Yuva Sangharsh Vahini for women’s right to property.
Dr Sobti talked about women’s mental, physical and spiritual health. She was of the opinion that it is not only our right but also our responsibility to live a healthy life. She laid emphasis on our contemporary lifestyles and the need to focus on positive thoughts and meditation in order to deal with stress and have a good mental health. Miss Kashyap discussed the topic of women’s right to safety and justice. She pointed out the necessity of justice starting from one’s home. She also shared various developments which have taken place in the police department for gender sensitisation.
The launch of Shreshtha, the annual magazine of the WDC, ended the day-long celebration on a high note. The event was a perfect illustration of how to raise the public consciousness, which is considered to be the cornerstone of feminist struggle. Events like these give women an opportunity to come together and share their experiences and successes as well as raise awareness about the social, political and personal issues. It is through such exercises that the age-old agenda of merging the personal and political sphere gets realised.