This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Remembering Kamla Bhasin: A Champion For Equity, Equality, And Feminism

More from IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute

Kamla Bhasin
Kamla Bhasin has played a pivotal role in forging feminist solidarity networks in South Asia

Nishi Verma 

Kamala Bhasin was a feminist icon with a multifaceted persona who passed away on 25th September 2021. She was a  poet, a writer, an activist, a  lyricist, a mentor, and a facilitator. Kamala was the founder of Jagori, an organization working with the women’s movement in India. She also worked with organizations such as South Asia Women’s Network and Aurat Foundation. She played pivotal forging solidarity among feminist movements in the South Asian region. Remembering her, a special discussion was held by the Center for Human Dignity and Development (CHDD), IMPRI Impact, and Policy Research Institute. The discussion was organized under #WebPolicyTalk series #InMemoriam. A special discussion, Remembering Kamla Bhasin: A Champion for Equity, Equality and Human Rights

The Poetry Of Feminism

The event started with Professor Vibhuti Patel, an Eminent Gender Economist, and Feminist, Former Professor, Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai also acting as a moderator for the session, sharing her memory from the first time she met Kamala Bhasin during an anti-rape movement in 1980. She described her as a woman who would charge the conferences and workshops with her forceful slogans, electrifying persona, confidence, witty jokes, and dense theoretical and political content.

Professor Vibhuti Patel then expressed her sorrow on the passing away of Kamala Bhasin calling it an irreparable loss to the feminist movement as well as the One Billion Rising Movement in Asia.

Her humor, vitality, enthusiasm, cheerfulness would always be remembered as she continues to live through her songs, verses, poems, stories, publications, and slogans.

Professor Patel talked about Kamala Bhasin’s popular war cry- Azadi, meaning liberation from all the evils is it dowry, corruption, gender-based violence, etc. As per Professor Patel, Kamala Bhasin lived a life of the feminist slogan- “Personal is Political and Political is personal”. She highlighted how Kamala Bhasin’s works made it easy for thousands of first-generation learners, scholars, activists, young adults with non-English backgrounds, often ridiculed by elite university atmosphere to understand and comprehend ideologically and theoretically heavy concepts of feminism, patriarchy, gender-based violence, etc.

Kamla Bhasin poster

Genuine Togetherness

Shireen P Huq, founder member, Naripokkho, Bangladesh described Kamla Bhasin as not an individual but a phenomenon. She talked about how Bhasin wasn’t just an amazing presence but the event all by herself. Kamala Bhasin could mesmerize people with her words, hand gestures, singing, and dancing. Shireen recalled the first time she met Bhasin at a women’s march in Delhi protesting the Mathura rape case in 1979.

For Shireen, Kamala was her inspiration and her influence for moving away from academia to activism. She described Bhasin as an encyclopedia of the ongoing happenings.

“Wherever she went, she enabled a thousand flowers to blossom.

Sheerin then talked about Kamla’s ability to bring together and form strong unions. She would always talk about South Asian solidarity and the need for everyone to rise above their national identities and become a quintessential South Asian.  Her insistence to speak about equity and equality echoed with everyone who believed that the feminist agenda needed to cover both. Equity as a means and equality as a goal.

Meaningless Boundaries

Farida Akhter, Executive Director, UBINIG, and President, Narigrantha Prabartana, Bangladesh started by talking about the name Kamala in itself being so symbolic and  South Asian. It could belong to someone from Pakistan, India, or Bangladesh, to someone rich or poor.

Just like Kamala herself, her name traversed all boundaries be it a name, caste, class, or religion.

Akhter talked about Bhasin’s iconic gamcha being a symbol of who she was. Gamcha is a cloth that is a symbolic cloth for the poor and middle class in South Asia that Bhasin would wear everywhere. Akhter emphasized how Bhasin had acknowledged the presence of various stands, opinions, and ideologies within feminism itself. Bhasin talked about a plethora of societal issues and encouraged others to do the same. As per Akhter,  it is our responsibility to keep her legacy alive. She wanted to live for two more days, we have to keep her alive forever.

A life is woven with love, cheer, and fun

Professor Jyoti Seth, Head, and Professor (Retd.), Department of Sociology, PG Government College for Girls Chandigarh met Kamala Bhasin when she traveled to Bhasin’s house in Kasauli from Chandigarh. On returning, they organized a workshop for the faculty of colleges and later started holding yearly, bi-yearly workshops for students in the 2 biggest colleges in Chandigarh. Professor Seth recalled Bhasin as a  person who enjoyed small things and found pleasure in them. Bhasin had a special connection with everyone working at Tara. People loved meeting her and she loved hugging everyone.

Professor Seth called Kamala a very focused individual who would think, talk, write, record, and share her thoughts with everyone. She wonderfully used technology. No one remained unaffected.

Bhasin was relevant to so many generations and will continue to remain relevant to many more.

Leading Spirit Of The Women’s Movement

Sreemoyee Piu Kundu, Author, and Columnist; Community Founder – Status Single,  reached out to Kamala Bhasin while she was in the process to put together a summit for women for urban single women. Bhasin and Sreemoyee spoke for about five hours. Bhasin opened season  3 of Sreemoyee’s online community talk show called “Status Single” and inspired single women through her words and community-building initiatives. Bhasin motivated Sreemoyee to do more for women who were caregivers dealing with mental health issues. Sreemoyee expressed her regret in the fact that she never got the meet Kamala but she still considers her to be family, beyond blood and birth.

She remembered Kamala, not just a trailblazer but also a mother, a grandmother and, a sister.

A Powerful Voice Against Patriarchy

Lata Pratibha Madhukar, Convenor, Bahujan Sanvad Social Network and Bahujan Mahila Samvad, Pune  called Kamala a “song”. She met Kamla at a forum against sex determination and sex pre-selection in 1986. She believes that the women’s movement has given collective leadership legacy to the present-day Kisaan Andolan. She talked about how Bhasin talked about women, children, caste, patriarchy, and racism. Madhukar also recalled Kamala Bhasin’s appearance on Satyamev Jayate through which she was able to reach out to millions. She called Bhasin a believer of nonviolence.

Way Towards A Feminist Future

Yagna Parmar, Project Director, Vacha, Mumbai talked about how she never knew Kamala personally but will always remember her as a  researcher, gender trainer, writer, poet, and author. Parmar expressed how mesmerized she was by Kamala’s confidence, personality and demeanor when she attended a Jagori training session in Delhi.  Yagna talked about how one needs to internalize gender sensitivity and should have a larger perspective towards women’s rights issues to become a feminist.

Bhasin motivated people to build a larger perspective and bring change in themselves, to bring change in society.

Her two-week course on gender, human rights and sustainable development and women’s empowerment organized by Sangat and Jagori Rural were enriching and provided a deeper understanding of complex concepts such as how gender is constructed, women’s rights as human rights, the role of patriarchy, legal framework to protect women’s rights, bodily safety, sexuality, and communal harmony.

At Vacha, Parmar and her colleagues have been using various posters, slogans, and songs by Bhasin and also disseminating them during their residential gender training program among intersectionally deprived girls. Bhasin’s works are a part of  Vacha’s library and cultural center and are accessed by youth, girls, students, researchers, media, and teachers. She sang Kamala’s song “thumak thumak main toh naachungi” as her final tribute.

Great Kindness With Firmness To Resolve

Mumtaz  Shaikh, Manager, Women’s Empowerment Programme, CORO India, Mumbai talked about how Kamala has given importance to humanity, love, and kindness. What she and her team at CORO have learned about feminism, have learned through humanity. From Mumtaaz’s experience, talking about feminism from the perspective of humanity helps in resolving issues and differences among people.

Her Poetry Speaks Volumes

Professor Deepali Ghelani’s colleagues at Sahiyar, Vadodara sang a beautiful song called “kyuki ladki hoon Mujhe padhnna hai”.Professor Deepali first met Kamala during Tripti Shah’s memorial. Tripti Shah was the founding member of Sahiyatri Sangathan. After talking about her Jagori sessions and her works, Professor  Deepali saluted Kamala her pledges, her passion, her judgment, and her life.

Concluding Remarks

Approaching the end of the session, Professor Vibhuti Patel spoke about how all the speakers were able to provide a kaleidoscopic understanding of Kamala’s life and actions.

While Akhtar reminisced the time she spent with Bhasin at a protest in Pune, Professor Seth talked about staying together, staying connected, holding hands, and carrying Kamala’s legacy forward. Sreemoyee thanked the IMPRI team and the moderator, Professor Vibhuti Patel. She concluded by talking about how all women coming from different generations can together become a ball of fire that Kamala herself was. Huq emphasized Bhasin’s motto on remaining united as South Asians. Mumtaz and Parmar gave their conclusion by emphasizing taking Kamala’s legacy forward. Madhukar recited the poem “Sooraj ko taj” as it  poem captured the mood of the discussion and sang the Marathi translation of “dariya ki kasam.” Everyone sang a ghazal by Iqbal Bano.

Professor Vibhuti Patel finally concluded by calling Kamala an altruist to the core who had the power to lift others from sorrow. She talked about an event organized by Jagori to honor Kamala’s life. IMPRI Director Simi thanked all the speakers for being a part of the discussion to celebrate Kamala Bhasin’s life.

Acknowledgment: Sneha Bisht is Research Intern at IMPRI

You must be to comment.

More from IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute

Similar Posts

By Nawal

By Aarti K.

By Sanya Gupta

    If you do not receive an email within the next 5 mins, please check your spam box or email us at

      If you do not receive an email within the next 5 mins, please check your spam box or email us at

        If you do not receive an email within the next 5 mins, please check your spam box or email us at

        Wondering what to write about?

        Here are some topics to get you started

        Share your details to download the report.

        We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

        Share your details to download the report.

        We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

        An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

        Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

        Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

        The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

        Read more about his campaign.

        Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

        Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

        Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

        Read more about her campaign.

        MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

        With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

        Read more about her campaign. 

        A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

        As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

        Find out more about the campaign here.

        A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

        She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

        Read more about the campaign here.

        A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

        The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

        Read more about the campaign here.

        A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

        As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

        Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

        Find out more about her campaign here.

        Share your details to download the report.

        We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

        A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

        A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

        Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

        A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
        biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

        Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
        campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

        Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below