“A gender-equal society would be one where the word ‘gender’ does not exist: where everyone can be themselves.” — Gloria Steinem
Martha Farrell Award for excellence in women’s Empowerment has been instituted to honour Dr Martha Farrell and her ideals of gender equality, feminism and women empowerment in everyday life. It’s an initiative to recognise and honour individuals and organisations who made valuable contributions in the field of Women’s empowerment and gender equality. Dr Martha Farrell was a passionate civil society leader herself who died on May 13, 2015, along with 14 others in a terrorist attack in Afghanistan. The legacy of Martha has been carried forward through the various Youth-led campaigns, training and development programs like ‘Kadam Badhate Chalo’ and ‘Making Workplaces safe’ by the Martha Farrell Foundation.
The first edition of the Martha Farrell Award was held on April 7, 2017. There were over 125 nominations from 18 states of India. Rakhi Gope, a community based social activist from the Falakta district in Alipurduar district grabbed the ‘Most promising individual’ award. Majlis, a Mumbai-based legal centre dedicated to defending women’s rights received the ‘Best organization for Gender Equality’ award. The winners were awarded a prize money of INR 1,50,000 by Rizwan Adatia Foundation (RAF) and Participatory Research in Asia (PRIA).
The second edition of the Annual Martha Farrell Award ceremony was held on April 25, 2018, in Teen Murti Bhavan, New Delhi. The nominations for 2018 award closed on November 30, 2017. A total of 147 nominations (82 nominations in the individual category and 65 nominations in the organization category) from over 22 states of India. The nominations were shortlisted based on Dr Martha’s values and life goals by an eminent eight-member jury – Shabana Azmi, Kamla Bhasin, Shubhashish Bhutani, Anuradha Das Mathur, Sushama Nath, Binalakshmi Nepram, Justice (Retd.) Ajit Prakash Shah and Anshul Tewari.
The event started with a panel discussion on Gender Equality with panellists like Suheil Tandon and Rizwan Adatia. It was moderated by Poonam Mutreja, Executive Director of the Population Foundation of India (PFI). Suheil Tandon, Founder of Martha Farrell Foundation and son of Dr Martha Farrel, said “From an early age, our mother made us challenge the various gender norms prevalent in our male-dominated society. Gender equality for us was an everyday thing. When I started Pro sports legacy, I wanted to carry on my mothers legacy of gender equality.”
Rizwan Adatia, the founder of Rizwan Adatia foundation, said,“To build the foundation for a gender-neutral society, we need ‘Bete Ko Sikhao’ with ‘Beti Padhao, Beti Bachao.”
After the conclusion of the panel discussion, it was time to announce the much-awaited winners of the 2nd Martha Farrell award ceremony. The winner like Martha should create
Nadiya Shafi, a video reporter from the conflict-ridden state of Jammu and Kashmir, got the ‘Most promising Individual Award’. For the last seven years, she has been bringing out stories of Kashmiri women, whose lives have been marred by the armed conflict and a patriarchal society. These stories, which are often ignored by the national and local media, are now giving voice to the unseen and unheard women of Kashmir. She has extensively covered the violence faced by the transgender community in Kashmir. She founded ‘Kashmir Unheard’, a part of the ‘Video Volunteers’ organization in Goa.
Resource and Support Centre for Development (RSCD) got the ‘Best Organization for Gender Equality’. RSCD was founded in 1994, as a network campaign promoting a vision of a society where equal and appropriate opportunities are ensured for all. In the year 2000, they initiated the Mahilla Rajsatta Andolan (MRA), which is a state-wide campaign for women in governance in Maharashtra. Within a span of 17 years, this campaign has successfully pushed for several policy changes to strengthen women’s participation and leadership in the Panchayati Raj. Currently, RSCD is working in 30 districts of Maharashtra, with a regional network of over 150 CSOs and with over 3000 elected women representatives.
The event concluded with a band performance from Trippy Sama, a world music project bringing musicians from all over the world. The performance was based on a theme that women are not necessarily as fragile as the wildflowers; they can fly as high as a bird if they want.
Gender Equality is not a women’s right. It is, in fact, a human right. We need not raise our daughter like our son. We should rather raise our son like our daughter to turn gender equality into reality.