International Women’s Day 2021
In SCI India
Like other years this year also, we observed International Women’s Day. Last year about 350 women from Self Help Group participated in this occasion. Last year the lockdown for Covid-19 was announced here on 21st March 2020. This year though the lockdown has been relaxed, the 2nd wave is knocking at the door so the gathering was not really expected and we arranged with 35 participants only with due precautions. We decided to simulate the middle-class people, tried to motivate them to take part in some organized consistent actions. The event was inaugurated with two Tagore’s songs sung by members of ‘Sur-O-Chhanda’, a local Tagore’s song institute. This time four retired headteachers of different schools took part and spoke about the position of the women in the family and in the community and about their participation in social issues. Tapas Sur, Secretary of SCI West Bengal Group welcomed the participants and introduced SCI. Then Ms. Purba Das anchored the event.
Dr. Kunal Sen remembered Maitreyi, Gargi, Lopamudra, etc, renown women intellectuals whose names are found in Vedic literature in 1200 -1500 BC, and besides he mentioned the issues of present days’ society where gender-related issues like domestic violence, dowry, rape, etc are of daily occurrence. He urged the women to be mindful of their own situations and seriously think to transform the scenario. The male-dominated society should come forward to support them. There are new initiatives to support them. There should be some reform in outlook to expedite a more just society for women.
Ms. Sadhana Ghosh read out her poem related to women’s issues.
Mr. Sumit Guharoy spoke about the issues of the third gender. He mentioned different terms we use for them, like Hijra, Kinnar, Brihannala, etc. Generally, people are making fun of them and we rarely legalize the trauma, agony, and pain which the members of the LGBTQ community undergo, nor appreciate the innate feelings of them. He spoke about some of the successful transgender persons like, Manabi Bandopadhya, who was allowed to be a college Principal after winning the case in the supreme court of India, Naaz Joshi, who is the world’s first Trans Sexual to win an international beauty pageant and the most successful model of India, Rituparno Ghosh, a national award-winning film director, an iconic figure of the queer community of India from Kolkata. He mentioned that the time has come to change the attitude of society towards the LGBTQ. The Govt. of India has declared them as the third gender in 2014.
Ms. Shikha Chakraborty said we have to focus on education of the women. Many women do not dare to go to the bank as they are illiterate. They have to be educated first to be confident.
Mrs. Swapna Choudhury advised the women to try to learn professional skills to earn money and to regularly save money even if it’s a small amount in their own bank account. She also advised the women to buy gold ornaments whenever they get money. She said women should have money power. Then Ms. Swapna Chaudhury, Purba Das, Manash Bhattachryya released a magazine called “Batabaran” (means Environment, it focuses on women empowerment, environmental awareness, social issues, and literature)
Two questionnaires were passed through the participants. One questionnaire, prepared by Purba Das, revealed the participants’ opinion regarding the age of marriage of boys and girls, their education, dress code, food, free mixing, etc. and then they were asked to explain their opinion one by one. Another questionnaire was introduced to know the picture of the social participation of the women, like if they participate in community activities / local Pujas (religious festival, attend observation of social events like environment, republic day, etc. if they participate in political activities if they are a member of club or library, etc.?
After the second questionnaire was filled up and submitted, our anchor, Mrs. Purba Das asked some of the participants to come on stage and asked few questions from the yes or no questionnaire and requested them to elaborate in support of their opinion.
Ms. Janaki Banerji suggested that women should understand and articulate their own problems. They should choose their own way to lead their happy life. They should pursue their own dreams. She said that the women should be made aware of the legal provisions. Legal literacy seminars could help us in this regards,
Prof. Rathindranath Chaudhury said the women situation is changing in our country although the situation of urban areas and rural areas are very different as in the urban areas women have more opportunities of education and earning whereas in rural areas it is very less. In the last 50 years, policies to advance human rights for women in India are substantial and forward-thinking, such as the Domestic Violence Act (2005), and the 73rd and 74th Amendments to the Constitution that provide reservations for women to enter politics at the Panchayat level. He said although in parliament the 1/3 reservation for women is pending since 2008. He said the women’s commission is quite active and there are women protection officers at district and sub-division level. The NGOs are working but the people’s forums should be more active.
All the participants were happy to take part and requested to organize such events more frequently.