“There is no tool for development more effective than the empowerment of women.” – Kofi Annan
From the United Nations to local NGOs, so many organisations are undertaking activities to empower women and become a better society. Since campus spaces also play a vital role in shaping young minds, many colleges in the University of Delhi have women’s development cells, mostly run by students. After speaking to a few students from different colleges of the university, I found that the cells in a majority of girls colleges take various efforts to empower women.
Lady Shri Ram College (LSR) was one of the first colleges of Delhi University to start its own women’s development cell (WDC) in 1985. A member of the cell told Campus Watch, “We are a group of passionate feminists working towards empowering women. We hold talks, panel discussions and movie screenings where issues such as gender stereotypes, female abortion, sexual harassment, breast cancer and domestic violence are discussed. We stand for equality and wish to create a more inclusive society for women.” Additionally, the cell has an online journal on gender and sexuality. It also organises competitions and workshops on gender sensitisation and legal awareness. “I feel a WDC should be there in all colleges. Its very presence is a step towards gender equality,” said Swati Sradhanjali, a student of LSR.
Miranda House has an extremely active women’s development cell. “We work under the mandate of the UGC circular which states that every institution needs to have established gender forums and WDCs,” said Aishwarya, a member of the college’s cell. The cell organises campaigns to raise awareness about several issues pertaining to women. In 2016, the cell collaborated with Goonj (an NGO) and organised a campaign to provide women with sanitary napkins. The cell is also known for celebrating ‘black feminism’, thereby encouraging intersectional feminism. Apart from this, events such as poetry reading, music and art exhibitions are also held. “The WDC is the most active cell in our college. I know several students who were happy and satisfied with the guidance and redressal that they received,” said Arhana, a student of Miranda.
Kamala Nehru College also has a well-functioning women’s cell. The cell organises lectures with women activists, conducts discussions and screens empowering movies. In 2015, it collaborated with HopeU – Hope in the University, an initiative of Hope Monkey, to empower women. The cell conducts interactive games in which participants are encouraged to speak about their experiences of living in a gendered world and debate the solution. A student of the college, Surabhi Prasoon told us, “I think the KNC WDC is a good initiative. It is very active and empowering.”
Unmukti, the women’s development cell of Gargi College, focuses on skill development of young women. It actively works towards issues like child abuse and healthcare. The cell emphasises the need for the safety of women in urban spaces and often conducts detailed discussions on the ‘male gaze’. It also collaborates with other WDCs in DU to organise talks and campaigns. Kashish Goel, a student of the college, told us the purpose of the cell. “We aim to see women at par with men in the society and a Women’s Development Cell, we believe is the most basic way to initiate change.”
Started in 1981, the WDC of Janki Devi Memorial College works not only against sexual harassment and abuse but also against cyber bullying and cyber crime. It works with various NGOs and organises cybersafety workshops for both students and teachers. It also collaborated with the Asmita Theatre Group in March 2015, to put together a play on the safety of women. However, a student of the college expressed her dissatisfaction with the cell. She said, “The college’s women’s development cell is not very efficient and active. It just exists; it’s not regular in its functioning. Most students are unaware of the events that they conduct. Maybe they do not publicise their events properly and so people remain ignorant of their activities and hence, cannot participate in them.”
Indraprastha College for Women’s WDC, while supporting the cause of women, also works towards raising awareness about the LGBT community. Annual surveys and gender auditing are also being conducted by the cell. “A Women’s Development Cell is now a necessity. The WDC of IP college discusses a lot about gender and I feel truly empowered,” said Nimisha Bansal, a student of IP college.
While it’s great to see women take efforts to empower other women, more colleges in DU and all over the country need to create such spaces to actively contribute to social dialogue and discourse. If everyone understands the struggles of women and makes efforts to empower them on a campus level, it will create a positive ripple effect – even when students get out of college they will try to create their homes and workplaces more inclusive. And before you know it, we will bridge the existing gender gap and create a world where every woman is empowered. On that note, here’s wishing a happy life with equal opportunities to all women!