Keeping the fervour of Women’s Day Celebration (March 10, 2012) alive, women from Jaishankar Memorial Centre (JMC) and New Concept Information Systems (NCIS) came together to ponder over and discuss the state of women’s empowerment. The programme began with an opening address by Vimala Ma’am, to connect the threads between the women’s day event, intermittent discussions among the womenfolk of JMC and NCIS and the present get together with a purpose of providing a forum to deliberate on various emergent concerns of women in our society. The main theme of the programme was the issue of the space women have to make their decisions regarding their own and their children’s health, education and economics.
The event was kick started by an enthralling Bharatanatyam dance performance by Janhavi. The performance depicted immense strength a woman has, to create and foster life on one hand and to destroy social evils on the other. The dance showcased the different forms Goddess Durga–an embodiment of womanhood, assumes to care for her loved ones and to punish the perpetrators. Following this a short audio-visual named ‘Girl Effect’ was played to show the precarious situation of a 12 year old girl child who is deprived of education and her very youth – married off and bearing children before she reaches adulthood at 18. However the cheerful conclusion of the audio-visual was put on hold to be played at the end of the event.
After this the workers from JMC narrated, with visuals, real life examples and enacted a skit to throw light on the lack of decision making power that women suffer. The victims of this are their own health and nutritional requirements among others. In addition, the important role women can play as decision makers in handling the household finances was demonstrated through posters. The presentation depicted contrasting situations where in one situation women actively participated in financial decision making leading to effective management of household as against situations where monetary matters were solely controlled by the man, often resulting in denying himself and his family the necessities of life while draining it on alcohol or in gambling.
Another important aspect of women’s plight was brought out in terms of keeping the health requirements and reproductive needs of woman last in the priority ladder through a role play. The role play centred on the story of a woman who is bearing her fourth child and suffering from severe malnutrition and her husband who is apathetic to her condition, completely ignoring her repeated requests to see a doctor. He has no idea what she is going through, and therefore no empathy. An articulate health worker’s intervention opens his eyes to his wife’s serious condition and he is easily persuaded to take her to the doctor.
This was followed by a short puppet show, focussing on the patriarchal oppression of women. The show revolved around a dialogue between father and daughter, where the father tries to silence the daughter every time she speaks saying, girls should live within societal boundaries and limits. The show concluded with a message that the struggle of women to resist societal pressure has been long standing and would continue till the women achieved victory.
The concluding part of the audio-visual – Girl Effect was screened, describing a situation where the girl had access to education; she earned a living and made her own decisions on her education, job and marriage. She took control of her life and nurtured the future generations of girl children and the cycle went on.
Capturing the essence of the whole programme Uma Ma’am concluded the session by underscoring the lack of decision making power that women suffer from around the world. She said what is happening around us fills us with anguish and we, may be in small ways, can put in our best efforts to change the scenario. And it is not just an individual issue or within a family, but one for all of society. We have to understand where the barriers to decision making are coming from. Appreciating the efforts of organising committee, the need to engage in further discussion on issues of women was stressed upon.
Post the summing up, floor was opened for comments and reflections from the participants. The salient points emerging from the discussion were importance of education in empowering women, participation of women in decision making at familial and social levels to assert their rights and men and women joining hands to improve the conditions of women in our society.