Strategic Thrust – 3: Gender Equality
3.1 Re-visiting Gender Policy
A three-day national workshop on “Re-Visiting Gender Policy” was conducted on Nov 23-25th, 2007 at SDC, Ranchi (Jharkhand).
The workshop started by a revolutionary song sung by Ms. Kalavati Patil, Coordinator, Maharashtra. Ms. Jiji Haridas, coordinator NNSS started the workshop with welcoming the participants and brief introduction of the Gender perspective of Swaraj. She explained that we must remember that sex is biological where as the word ‘Gender’ reveals about social-economic-cultural status of the women and men. Therefore any socio-economic-cultural differences are made by the society thus its remedy lies with the society of which we are part and parcel. Any change or difference in socio-economic-cultural status among man and woman is known as Gender Inequality.
She requested to participants to identify are of gender gap or difference. The participants shared following area;
3) Labour & wages,
4) Role & Responsibility,
6) Dress and hair style,
7) Access to landed or immovable property,
8) Freedom to travel,
9) Ability and opportunity of decision making,
10) Political & social activity,
11) Religious role,
12) Habit and culture,
ATR & Outcome of Gender Policy
The following points were presented after group discussion;
1) Efforts towards ensuring 50 % or equal participation of women in every sphere along with men.
WOMAN (In %)
MAN (In %)
2) Ensuring women participation through the formation of Grameen Mahila Manch,
3) Participation of man & women in village cleaning activities,
4) Printing and circulation of Gender policy in vernacular language,
5) More women SHG for the emancipation of the women,
6) Women Education Campaign and running of women literacy centre and working for the enrolment of more and more drop-out girls,
Impact of the Gender Policy:
1) Man and woman are eating together,
2) Mutual cooperation in domestic work,
3) Participatory decision process,
4) Including wife name in bank pass book,
5) Women are becoming self-confident,
1) Equal membership,
2) Equal post in PO & PDO,
3) Women literacy,
4) Growing acceptance of woman’s social role,
1) The men colleagues still treat gender programme as meant for the woman and they tend that they have little role in it.
2) Woman colleagues from Kerala are facing problems in remaining away from home for more than 4 to 5 days. This affects their quality participation.
Plan of Action
|Programme||Activities / Action|
|Propagating Gender Policy||8 More circulation of Gender Policy in vernacular language and its collective reading and discussion,
8 Prepare poster, pamphlets and do wall writing about Gender equality,
|Increase Gender Sensitivity||8 Organise awareness meeting,
8 Enforce gender policy in totality
8 PO PDO level workshops
|Gender Equality||8 Organise conferences of wife and husband,
8 Honouring ideal couple and courageous woman
8 Sensitisation workshop specially for fellows and PDO functionaries
3.2 2nd National Rural Women Conference:
Rural Women in 21st Century: Challenges and Opportunities
(9th To 12th Dec. 2007/ Organised by Peaceful Society, Kundai Goa)
9th Dec. 2007, 10.30 a.m.
The 2nd National Rural Women Conference was organised from 9th Dec. 2007 to 12th Dec. 2007 by Peaceful Society. The theme for this conference was aptly chosen as ‘Rural Women in 21st Century: Challenges and Opportunities’. The three days of the conference were divided properly to deliberate upon important topics related to women in particular in this 21st century society.
There were eminent personalities to guide by way of delivering speeches and active interactions with the women delegates on the following subjects:
Smt. Radha Bhatt:
In her thought-provoking inaugural address covered various aspects related to women in 21 century and the challenges and opportunities.
Shri Shashi Kamat:
He covered right to information with special emphasis upon women and their rights.
Smt. Madhavi Desai:
She deliberated upon rural women and importance of education and shared some of her personal observations and experiences regarding the rural women.
Smt. Surekha Dalvi:
Being an activist in the field, she noted some of the actual information-based incidents of domestic violence upon women and girl-children in particular. In her explanatory speech, she exposed the real face of the male-dominated society. She also spoke on modern race among people due to dawning of consumerist culture. With her enlightening speech, she made clear some of the reasons responsible for women exploitation in society as never before.
Shri Soter D’Souza:
In his well-studied paper, he highlighted upon various rights and duties of a woman in the democratic setup of the Panchayati Raj System in India.
Dr. Purnima Usgaonkar, Dr. Vallabh Dhaimodkar and Dr. Mangala Tamba: Being related to medical fraternity, these eminent medical practitioners guided upon various issues and problems related to women community in particular.
Smt. Nirmala Sawant:
By virtue of having extensive experience in the political field of Goa and having witnessed many upheavals in the Goan politics for couple of decades, topic ‘Rural women and Politics’, was well dealt by Smt. Sawant.
Smt. Pramila Purav:
Having unmatchable experience in the field of social reformation of women and economic self-reliance, her concluding address was a treat for the ears. It was indeed a great experience sharing session and was applauded by all the women delegates.
Meticulously designed and organised, the first session of the first day of the conference began with spectacular entertainment performances by participating delegates thereby enthusing the atmosphere with pomp and gaiety.
To begin with, there was a folk dance depicting the unique cultural heritage of Goan rural society called Fugdi. This was followed by variety dance and singing performances by delegates from the states of Orissa, Tamilnadu and Maharashtra.
The guest of honour for the inauguration was Smt. Radha Bhatt, Chairperson of Gandhi Peace Foundation.
Introduction by Smt. Kalawati Patil:
Detailed introduction of Smt. Radha Bhatt with emphasis upon her committed social activities by Smt. Kalawati Patil was inspiring for the audience. The introduction was an entire life sketch of Smt. Bhatt right from the childhood till date. The idea of how a struggling woman successfully overcomes all the hurdles in her life and proves her mettle was revealed from the story narration of Smt. Kalavati Patil.
To put it briefly, she narrated following important episodes from her life which could prove inspirational for the delegates:
- Smt. Radha Bhatt, presently chairperson of Gandhi Peace Foundation, played a prominent role in creating awareness among women and children of India about their rights. She put up constant efforts in India for the betterment of women. Another important issue upon which she worked was the protection of environment. Besides India, she made her presence felt in countries like London, USA, Thailand, Pakistan, Nepal,Norway, Denmark, Germany, France, Canada, and Holland etc. due to her sincere efforts in particularly in the field of women empowerment and environment.
- For her distinguished contribution in the field of woman and child welfare and the environment, Smt. Radha Bhatt is awarded with Jamanalal Bajaj Puraskar, Godavari Gaurav Puraskar etc.
Smt. Lalan Kerkar:
She welcomed all the dignitaries on the dais, the participants and the media-people. She again briefly introduced and warm-heartedly welcomed the distinguished guests viz. Smt. Radha Bhatt and her sisters Smt. Kanti Behanji and Smt. Devi Behanji. Smt. Kerkar put up reflections related with her experiences of earlier conference held at Bhadrak in Orissa. She reminded the audience how august was the 1st NRWC. She made a brief note of how during the 1st conference a total of 16 delegates from Goa actively participated. It was a matter of proud, she remarked that the 2nd conference is being organized in a small village called Kundai in the Ponda taluka of Goa.
Smt. Jiji Haridas:
(Journey from Bhadrak to Goa)
Smt. Jiji Haridas reflected upon the journey from Bhadrak to Goa. In her short speech, she narrated following points:
- The important issue of ‘Gender Equality’ was taken up during the 1st conference.
- The aspirations, issues, challenges related to women taken up for discussion during the 1st conference at Bhadrak were briefed up for the delegates to refresh their mind with the subject matter.
- She mentioned that various programmes were also designed in this direction. She explained how Swaraj fellows work at village-level to fulfil the mission of social change set before them by the 1st conference.
- “The dream was set before all during the 1st conference to ensure a society free of women exploitation and now again we are meeting in this conference to make a review of whatever we have achieved in realising our dream of social change”, narrated Smt. Jiji.
- “We have already started working upon issues related to health, education, self-reliance and domestic violence related to women in our respective states. So, we need to have serious discussion in order to evaluate these activities in their true spirit”, urged Smt. Jiji.
- She appealed to the delegates to come forward and freely pose their issues and problems before the experts invited to share their experiences and wisdom during this three-day conference.
- She took this opportunity to explain the various activities taken up at the grass-root PO and PDO level by Swaraj activists, the surveys made and the membership drive taken up at village level.
- She lamented that there is still a large women section depending on their male counterparts for economic needs. “Therefore, serious attention was paid towards establishing more Swaraj SHGS for rural women”, pointed Smt. Jiji. She emphasized that the vocational training was provided for women.
- Another important point she highlighted was about how the community sanitation works and health camps were taken up by the Swaraj activists.
- Swaraj has published its own gender policy at both village and National level. The policy is published in English, Malayalam, Oriya, Tamil, Hindi and Marathi languages in order to disseminate the knowledge to large section of the women community.
- Other activities at the village level included vigorous campaign against alcoholism and domestic violence inflicted upon women.
- NNSS is conducting gender awareness programmes in all states as well as at the National level.
The slogans were raised voicing the women awareness towards their rights.
Then, there was a song on the theme of river, “Nadiya Dheere Baho” (Swaraj Nadi Geet). The team was led by Murari Bapu.
Shri K. K. Mani:
“A tongueless person is awakening the heart of India. Murari Bapu lost his tongue but still he has willpower to over come this loss”, were the words Shri K. K. Mani uttered upon hearing the impressive song by Murari Bapu. He cited the teachings of Patanjali, the great Yoga Guru. “Murari Bapu is making people aware about nature, rivers and humanity relentlessly through his committed social work”, said Shri Mani.
Smt. Radha Bhatt:
In her inspirational and convincing speech, Smt. Radha Bhatt put up her reflections on following points:
- She praised the serene and tranquil atmosphere of Peaceful Society campus besides the warm hospitality throbbing with love and friendship she enjoyed during her stay in the campus. While praising the natural beauty of the campus she also thanked the organisers for having organised this meticulously planned event on such an important issue related to women.
- She also thanked all the delegates and particularly those women who travelled right from Kerala and Tamilnadu in order to join the conference.
- She praised the dedicated activities carried out by Peaceful Society and further stated that the Peaceful Society is indeed standing by her name. She also praised the social forum called ‘Swaraj’ doing a towering job of societal transformation.
- She further said “we are already in 21st century and it is a challenge. We are not prepared for this century. What we have to do as women has still not begun. This is a real challenge, a challenge of time. We should understand that the time does not wait for anybody. So we have to be serious and aware about the passing time. So we have to see how well we can utilise this time for better cause. We have to study what are the opportunities before us and how well we can benefit from them. It is not that we have to think of only women from rural society but it is the global perspective, we have to keep in mind before making best use of the opportunities opened up in this 21st century”.
- She further sadly noted that “today there is increase in violence right from village to global level. We see different kinds of violence. However, still there is a ray of hope that the thirst for peace and harmony through means pf non-violence is also rising among people of this globe”.
- She emphasised that “now, more and more people are realising importance of peace and they are wishing to spread this message every where. And, this is an opportunity that people are seeking peace through non-violence”.
- She humbly admitted that “I have also started my social activities from the grass-root. Today, after continuous efforts for several years, people have recognised me and put faith in me to lead the team of Gandhi Peace Foundation. Otherwise, I am also a small worker like you”.
- She narrated an incident showing how people from war-torn countries like Afghanistan are longing for peace and harmony. With example of Dr. Rasool Amin, she explained that the common men shun violence and always aspire and welcome peace and harmony in their nation. Dr. Rasool Amin requested Smt. Bhatt to help him establish similar organisation like Gandhi Peace Foundation in his own country and to name it Afghanistan Peace Foundation. He further told Smt Bhatt that they don’t want any financial assistance but what they want was moral support and guidance from Gandhi Peace Foundation.
- She further said “now that the urge for peace is rising, the common women can play a major role in establishing the non-violent society based upon peace, love and harmony”.
- She explained how Pundits and Muslims were living like brothers and sisters in Kashmir valley, how they were sharing their food, they were sharing their sorrows and their happiness. The common people ofKashmir urge earnestly to restore back those days of peace and harmony. The common people of Kashmir do not want any battle on their land. The people of the land are fully aware of the vested interests of the Governments of both the sides. They knew that what the Governments of either side want desperately is the land and not the people. The people are dying but the politicians have nothing to do with it. What the politicians want to grab is the land.
- “So, the rising of an understanding among people to establish peace and harmony through peaceful means is the greatest opportunity for all of us”, said Smt. Bhatt in her appeal.
- She noted that “the same socio-economic under-currents run at village and also at the global level. The village women should sit together and find out what are the opportunities before them and in what best manner they could use them for the good of the society. The challenges that are at the global level are also persisting at the rural level”.
- “The woman is an incarnation of non-violence. She is born non-violent. The woman has the power, the spirit to establish peace in the society. The greatest job and responsibility before a woman is to restore non-violence in the society. The women have to work towards establishing all kinds of non-violence in the society – the rural as well as the global society” she optimistically asserted.
- She remarked “today, we see cruelty and violence spreading to all the places. The growth of science was actually meant for betterment of the society. However, what we see today is using science for inventing and manufacturing arms and ammunitions of mass-destruction. The use of science in warfare is very dangerous and it could annihilate the entire human race from the planet. If the right understanding is not developed and the present trend of violence is not changed then, there is going to be an end of human race. So, women are the only hope today and they have to come forward. I particularly say that the rural women have to come forward because the mind set up of urban women is changed today. The urban women think more like their male counter parts. We have to distance science from befriending the violence”.
- We have to find out the reasons motivating a person towards violence in the society and try to find solutions accordingly. When we look at a village, earlier there was unity among the villagers. Now, we see fragmentation of villagers on various grounds like caste, religions and politics etc. Then, how could it be the peaceful society?
- She further explained that “we have to bridge this gap and bring all people together in our villages. The poor and low caste people may be benefited through various Government welfare policies and schemes. However, the social mind-setup has still not changed. By now, there should have been total acceptance and warm-hearted welcome to such marginalised people from all sections of the society. But, we still find the inequality prevailing in many parts of our society. The social transformation is more important and could only come if such people are encouraged and supported and loved by other privileged society”.
- Smt. Bhatt explained how there are caste-based discriminations still prevailing in the minds of the people, particularly among the Government Officials by citing an example of a woman organisation in Uttaranchal. “The changes in the mind setup of a person could not be brought about by law but it will come through conscious social efforts”, she reiterated.
- She narrated with one more example how caste conscious is today’s society. With examples, she also proved how women can lead campaigns and agitations against anti-people policies and succeed in their social cause.
- She cautioned that “the violence is mainly because of fragmentation of the society. The violence upon a woman is due to the division of man and woman. So, if such dividing factors end then the cause of the violence will end and the violence also will end”.
- She clarified that “the poor is a poor because another man has become rich. The poorness of a poor man is hidden in the richness of a rich man. Because one person is becoming richer the other person is becoming poorer. If there has to be unity, then the rich has to come down to establish unity. The same story exists at the rural, national and also at the global level”.
- She made clear following points – The 80% of our natural resources are exploited by 15% of our population. The big companies wants India to shine, make the nation a super power. That is why they want to promote the industries. So what they need to run these mega industries? They want to grab land, water and air. The want these for what? They want to pollute these vital elements in other words; they want to destroy unique constituents of the life nourishing nature. Therefore the villagers of Orissa, Kerala and Bengal etc. are fighting to save their natural wealth like land and water. Now people know that the water is grabbed by companies to make money. However, people want the water to live alive. In Bengal, villagers say that they want their land to cultivate it for food while the companies want the land to manufacture cars. The mother earth is to provide food for the man and not to use for amassing wealth.
- “The women must awake and see this injustice. I am happy that ‘Swaraj forum is taking some efforts in the direction. Swaraj activists have surveyed at their respective village levels to understand the actual state of their villages. We have to feel the pain of the people. This is possible by studying their conditions and not by merely listening. We should not believe hearsay things but we should verify and understand the things before believing them” she urged the gathering. Here, she cites an example of Gandhi about how he used to verify the credentials from all the relevant angles of any happening before believing or passing any comment on that happening.
- In her reflection she further pointed out that the “Panchayati Raj Act is a powerful tool still not used by women. If this tool is rightly used then women could play a major role in decision making. By this Act, a woman has got a right to join in the process of decision making. In the centre of development, there is money. In the centre of development what is actually needed is the labour. If sincere labour comes in the centre of the development then there shall be real progress of the village”.
- We have to see that the villages are self-reliant. In Panchayat Raj, it should be ensured to make the villages self-reliant.
Smt. Bharati Bandodkar expressed vote of thanks to each of the participant for having come from distant parts of the country. She especially thanked Smt. Radha Bhatta and her sisters for having graced the occasion. She also expressed sincere thanks to Smt. Lalan Kerkar for taking time from her busy schedule and attending the conference.
Smt. Jiji Haridas, later explained the important points form the speech of Smt. Radha Bhatt to South Indian audience in their Malayalam and Telugu languages.
Then, there was a session of report presentation by state units of Bihar, Tamilnadu, Orissa, Jharkhand, Kerala, Maharashtra and Goa. Each Swaraj Unit read out the report and explained the activities carried in their respective regions.
The evening session began with a song by Shri Soter D’souza. Smt. Nirupama Mohanty facilitated this session. She explained the subject matter and introduced the guest. She also read out her own poem based on the social issue. Shri Shashi Kamat was invited to talk on the topic of Right to information.
Shri Shashi Kamat
Sub: Right to Information
Shri Shashi Kamat put his reflections on following points:
- Right to information Act is introduced from October 2005 and it is very powerful tool for the common man.
- It is not adequate that there are good laws but we have also to ensure that these laws are properly implemented.
- The bureaucracy has habit of keeping every thing secret. They are reluctant to keep the information as secret as possible.
- The people in villages should make small groups and use this Act to seek relevant information which will serve in the best interest of the society.
- Under Section 3 of this Act every citizen of this country is entitled to seek information under this Act.
- Under section of the Act, every public authority has to appoint a public officer. The public authority includes not only Government Departments but also other organisations like societies etc. which are controlled and funded by the Government.
- The application has to be written very carefully. We should mention what exactly we want. The Government of Goa has published a list of the Public Information Officers related their Departments. Other states, where such books are not published should also demand for such lists.
- A person seeking information under the said Act need not cite any reason for seeking such information. But, a person seeking such information need to ensure that a court fee of Rs10/- is attached to the application. In absence of such fees, the application may be considered invalid.
- Another thing a person has to ensure is to obtain an acknowledgement on the date and signature of the concerned receiving authority on the copy of the application. It becomes mandatory on the side of the receiving authority to submit the required information within 30 days of the receiving date.
- It is always better to submit such application personally in the office or else it should be submitted by registered A.D. Post. Due to registered post, a person sending such application also gets date of receipt.
- Under Section 18, a person can lodge a complaint against any such authority refusing to accept such application to the Information Commissioner.
- Except it is confidential, even third party information has to be provided. Even in case of confidential information, if it is found that public interest is more involved then, it is compulsory to provide such information, e.g. In case of illegal construction.
- If a person is interested in having a document then, it must be ensured that a certified copy of the document is provided.
- There are exceptions to this Act like sovereignty of the country etc. where the right to information can be denied. However, the reasons in such cases have to be justified. Except the information coming under Section 8 and Section 9 (Official Secret Act), the other information has to be provided.
With these important reflections, Shri Kamat urged the audience to raise their questions and queries regarding the subject of Right to Information Act and provided valuable information and suggestions to make the best use of the Act.
10.12.2007/ 9.15 a.m.
The morning session began with an address by Smt Madhavi Desai, a noted writer in Marathi. The topic was “Education and Rural Women”.
Following are some of the points from her speech:
- We should not forget Mahatma Gandhi because during the freedom struggle he realised the importance of women power. Gandhi awakened women power and drew them in freedom movement. Just by a single call, large women community joined him in his agitations against British Government like Dandi Yatra., Jail Bharo Andolan etc
- The smile of a child is beautiful and similarly, if you notice, it is the Gandhi’s smiling face. His face otherwise is not beautiful, he does not have teeth, he is bald. But, when we see smile on his face, it is the most beautiful looking, it is the most sacred looking.
- Even the concept of human equality which is incorporated in Indian Constitution is due to the efforts of great men like Gandhi.
- For real development of the country, the village women must be educated.
- British people forced English language in this country not out of love but they wanted to create slaves to work for them in their offices. We want English because it is world language but we should not be slaves to it. The education system is faulty where intelligent boy or girl necessarily need not pass in the SSCE. A person getting highest marks in SSCE need not be intelligent because what he or she does is just reciting by heart some of the books like a parrot many a times reciting blindly without following what they do.
- Though, there are schools teaching primary classes in mother tongue in our villages, we send our children to English Medium schools in cities. We should see that if our children have to learn properly then, their education has to be at the primary level in their respective mother tongues. The parents have become slaves of the English language. Thus, there is no real development of the girl-child due to this kind of faulty education pattern.
- After passing SSCE or 12th Std., parents in Goa try to find Government job to their daughters. Parents run from this pillar to that post, they go to Sarpanch, they approach MLA requesting for such job. Despite passing the examination and having the qualification, the slavery still exists. Now, why the girl searches a job? The job for a girl is to ensure a good boy for getting married.
- During her speech, Smt. Pratiksha Gawade was felicitated for her commendable role played during campaign launched against SEZ in Keri village of Ponda. Smt. Madhavi Desai while felicitating Smt. Pratiksha Gawade explained the audience about how she staunchly opposed this anti-people SEZ project.
Shri K. K. Mani explained the talk in Hindi.
Smt. Jiji Haridas explained the talk in Malayalam for the sake of south Indian audience.
The next session began with a talk by Smt. Surekha Dalvi. The topic of her discourse was “Domestic violence upon rural women”. Smt. Lily Marandi introduced the subject and put her reflections before the audience. Then, she introduced the guest speaker, Smt. Surekha Dalvi and invited her to put up her thoughts before the audience.
Important points discussed by Smt. Surekha Dalvi:
- Today is 10th December. A day of Human Rights. It is a good coincidence that we are discussing on women rights today.
- The status of a woman is almost similar irrespective religion, region, caste, education etc.
- The violence upon a woman is not merely physical. We have to look to our day to day experiences and we shall come to know that there are different types of violence existing and women are falling prey to them.
- I am not here to guide you. I am here to put before you some of my experience-based ideas. I hope this sharing of ideas will help you understand certain things.
- When we say physical violence, the first of such physical violence upon a woman starts from the time of foetal stage. The first violence starts when the thought comes to the mind that the female foetus has no right to live. The thought negating the existence of a girl-infant, when appears in the minds of a mother, the family and the society, the first violence starts here. The mind set up of preferring a boy in a family is the main reason why we see violence starting before the birth of a child.
- We are social activists wishing to change the society for better. So, we should begin changes from us, from our own families.
- We should welcome arrival of a girl similar to that of a boy.
- The law helps us to solve the problems. But on its own a law can not do anything. Actually in the year 1971, the law is enacted to prohibit the sex determination in the womb. However, the nursing homes are rising in numbers where such determination is done rampantly. Even the abortion is done for a petty price of Rs.70/- and such stickers are openly seen in the trains of Mumbai. Now, these illegal practices are seen every where despite having Law. We all know that in villages there are several traditional ways and means used to abort a child. Due to these cruel and unscientific practices, many a times the women have to die or live with psycho-physical injuries and traumas.
- Most wicked form of violence is found today due to one-sided love affairs. The boys who do not succeed in winning the hearts of their chosen girls then they resort to inhuman ways like throwing acid on the faces of the girls and disfiguring them. Earlier, we knew these types of incidents were taking place more in cities. Now they are followed by the village-boys also.
- Now, it is not that the deaths occur more due to the dowry-related issues but, also due to one-sided love affairs.
- The marriage has become a market today. The brides have price-tags. Those who can afford the price can approach with their girls to them.
- The attitude towards a woman by a man is like a commodity in the market. A man deserts his wife and remarries to ensure material gains from the second wife. The number of deserted women in the villages is rising day by day.
- New trend of house-keeping is emerging today. Even many organisations are coming forward to teach the concepts of house-keeping. This training is not for keeping one’s own house tidy and proper but the way a lady should take care of other’s house. The cases of domestic violence are rising due to this kind of house-keeping.
- Earlier our village economy depended more upon agriculture. Now, new concept of tourism and entertainment is coming up in our country. And we all know that this new trend gives fast money but in return exploits the women community.
- In the male dominated society, alcohol and women are considered as matters of enjoyment. Therefore the culture of dance bar and prostitution is increasing day by day in various decent names like tourism and entertainment industry.
- In the form of divorce, law has given protection to a woman to rid of the cruelty of her husband. The concept of violence is defined in the law for better safeguard of women’s rights.
- Though, there are rights for women in Panchayat Raj, when the time comes to voice them, the male members in Panchayat revolt against the women. The main tool to discourage a woman representative is to defame her character and demoralise her. This is also a serious kind of violence. From various such violences at family, political religious and social level, we can say that the slogan of we are all one, is a hollow one.
- The self-reliant villages, the self-contented people of villages are getting more and more closer to the consumerist culture. The villagers are now imitating the city life which teaches them to live for just ‘now and here’ and not to think of tomorrow. Different kinds of violence is creeping in due to this new cultural trend, which we see particularly displayed in various TV shows and other mass-media.
- Smt. Dalvi, later discussed about various aspects of SEZ and how it is going to disturb the peaceful of our village and village economy. She highlighted various demerits of the SEZ because of which we have to oppose it.
Later, there was an open forum. The women delegates raised their problems and queries before Smt. Dalvi and Smt. Dalvi gave satisfactory answers covering the issues in-depth. The vast knowledge and wisdom, with which Smt. Dalvi provided the answers, were appraised by the women delegates.
Shri Soter D’Souza:
(Village Panchayat and Women)
Shri Soter put up following points regarding the above said topic:
- The 73rd Amendment to the Constitution was brought in order to bestow 33% reservation to women. The noble decision to go ahead with this amendment was to ensure active participation of women in the Indian Politics. However, after 15 years of this Amendment, we have to assess whether the women have really been benefited till date.
- The 33% reservation for women was first introduced by Maharashtra state and later knowing its positive side, was considered by the Central Government.
- Today, a really commendable step is taken by Bihar Government to introduce a total of 55% reservation to women.
- I regrettably admit here that there are lots of books; lots of seminars and workshops undertaken upon women empowerment but in reality nothing substantial is found under Panchayat Raj for women empowerment. Why does this happen? This happens because more of our attention is diverted towards mainly economic progress of women through medium of self-help-groups etc.
- There are abundant success stories of women entrepreneurship excelling in economic fields but very rarely one will notice any book or article publishing success story of a woman succeeding in political field, particularly in local governance.
- In Neemkhed of Haryana, the first all women representative body got elected to Panchayat. This was a historic event for India getting women elected in Panchayat and becoming part of decision making body in local governance.
- Today over 5,75,000 women are elected to Panchayats. Within span of 15 years, women achieved lot of success. However, they have to go a long way.
- It is easy to make laws but the real problems come during their implementation. We find many problems and hindrances while implementation of 73rd Amendment. We come to know the merits and demerits only when we implement any law.
- I had an opportunity to discuss with a woman Sarpanch from one of the villages of Goa. She had a long tenure of serving her village in the capacity of a Sarpanch. She was very proud of her long tenure. We are also very happy to see a woman Sarpanch serving her village for such a long tenure. I asked her “what can we learn from your achievements, your successes”? She promptly gave a big list of roads, drains, Panchayat building, various schemes implemented. I again asked her “what is the difference between your Panchayat and other Panchayats”? Other Panchayats also do similar kinds of developmental works. She could not figure out any. What I look as important in success of any Panchayat is not the developmental work alone but the active participation of the people in the Gram Sabha. What I particularly try to find out is the involvement of common men and women in the decision making process through the medium of Gram Sabha.
- The elected members in the Panchayat are not important but the people who form the Gram Sabha are important. Today, we see the reverse because unfortunately the Gram Sabha has become inactive. What is very important is to empower the Gram Sabha.
- For real women empowerment to happen, the women must come together, sit together and find the problems faced by them and others and make a strategy to raise them in the GramSabha which is a right forum to address their grievances.
Then, there was an open forum wherein the delegates raised their queries before Shri Soter and got satisfactory answers from him.
The evening session began with talks on health and health related medical aspects by a Following panel of medical practitioners:
Dr. Purnima Usgaonkar
Dr. Mangala (Nadkarni) Tamba
Dr. Vallabh Dhaimodkar
The Doctors were introduced by Smt. Lalan kerkar.
Following are some of the points form the valuable guidance from Dr. Purnima Usgaonkar:
- Health of the family means over-all health of all the members of the family.
- Women are the main pillars of the family. So, it is very essential that the women look after their own health. If a woman looks after her health then she can take care of the health of rest of the family, it means children, men and the elderly people of the family.
- Due to over-burden of work, a woman gets very little time to take her care in a family. She does not pay enough attention to her food and diet.
- For a woman, food which is rich in iron giving component e.g. cereals, vegetables is very essential. Water is always neglected. Plenty of water is very essential for a woman. All the systems of our body require enough water for their proper functioning.
- There is a change in life style affecting the food intake. Today, people take food in between very frequently. Today, there is no rationale towards the quality of food, the quantity of food. The food habits are becoming very indiscipline. If we do not take care of ourselves then, it is very difficult for us to guide our children in what way they should follow the disciplined life towards food.
- The high technology things like filters need to be used with caution. Now, there is a trend emerging where children avoid breakfast. The school going children must have proper breakfast in order to get energy to learn what the teacher teaches in the school. The women should have proper breakfast, at least a cup of milk to work in a better way through out the day.
- Certain important precautions have to be taken like not putting sour things in an aluminium vessel for long because the vessels get corroded due to the sour things. Steel spoons should not be left in pickles. These apparently small things are very important to be followed to avoid health hazards.
- Restriction of salt-rich food is important in cases of certain diseases and ailments.
- Due care should be taken while eating outside food because it is the source of contamination.
- Every type of a disease has got a specific type of a diet.
- The undergarments and private parts should be clean because women are very prone to infections. The skin should be kept clean. The towels, the napkins that we use should be clean. There should be no dampness because it causes fungal infection.
- Mothers should give proper guidance to their children during adolescence stage. With the changing society, adolescence pregnancies are rising. The forced abortions put down the health of the girls.
- Termination of girl foetus in the womb is very shameful and criminal. We must see that these things do not happen in the society. PNDT is a 21st century problem. We have made it. Earlier, there was no such problem. Ultrasound sonography was meant for good cause, i.e. to find if there is any abnormality with the growing foetus. But what we do? We do not allow the pregnancy to continue after knowing the sex of the foetus.
- The talk was later translated in Hindi by K. K. Mani with simple and understandable illustrations of the day-to-day life.
Following are some of the points form the valuable guidance from Dr. Mangal Tamba, particularly related to acquired diseases like AIDS:
- This village was once upon a time very clean and serene. Today, with lot of industries, lot of pollution is also occurring here. However, this Peaceful campus is maintained with natural beauty. We feel the fresh air and greenery of this land and become refreshed with peace of mind.
- Our life is mainly determined by what we eat. We should take care of maintaining our total health. Many of those who are sitting here must not have checked the haemoglobin content. We are habitual to live in an anaemic stage. This is a sign that women do not pay attention to their health. This is the habit and also a culture of Indian woman to sacrifice for others without much caring for her own health.
- In 1981, first AIDS patient was noticed in USA. That time, it was thought that the males are only going to get infected by this disease. However, now we see women getting this infection rapidly. The percentage of women infection to that of men is 17 times more. The number of women infection could not be properly ascertained because women are by nature hesitant to come out for medical check-ups. The worst part is that if a woman gets the infection then the child will also get an infection. The dangerous trend is that the infected women so far found are belonging to the fertility periods. As a result of urbanization and industrialization, the men have to migrate to cities leaving their spouses to their native places. Here, they fall prey to such diseases when they approach to commercial sex workers. The village areas are also becoming more prone to AIDS because the truck drivers coming from these areas pass on the disease.
- The women are more dependent upon men. So, they can not tell convincingly their male partners to use condoms. This is the main reason why the disease spreads.
- The instances of child-abuse, particularly girl-child abuse are rising within family itself.
- We are making lot of progress in the 21st Century at one side and at the other side we see rise in such disease where by the very existence of our future generation is threatened. So, we have to think very seriously about this problem. The men have to come forward to help women in safe guarding their lives and there by also the lives of the future generations. What is more important today is to educate the women community. The curriculum should be designed to incorporate knowledge about this subject.
The third medical practitioner was Dr. Dhaimodkar who spoke on occupational health. Dr. Dhaimodkar put before the audience advantages and disadvantages of globalization and industrialization upon our health. He deliberated more upon occupational health of men and women.
11.12.2007, (9.15 a.m.)
The morning session began with an experienced talk by Ex-Minister of Goa State Smt. Nirmala Sawant.
She deliberated upon following points related to her topic “Politics and Rural Women”:
- A woman plays various roles like a daughter, a sister, a wife a mother etc in a family. A woman has to play effectively all these roles in order to make a family happy.
- A woman should always be respected by a man. There is no difference between a man and a beast if that man does not respect a woman.
- An important role a woman plays is that of a mother. There is no better Guru (teacher) like a mother. A woman may be illiterate still she is the greatest Guru because from her way of living, way of thinking, a child learns.
- When we blame the present generation for behaving irresponsibly, we are also to be blamed fro that.
- When we talk of politics, there is no need of every one joining it. What we have to do is to elect a right man or woman as our representative. We have to support and energize that person so that he or she shall work for us.
- First, we should see that we play our responsible role as a family member, then comes our career. Some times people have dilemma whether a career should be first or the family? If by any way our career affects the growth of our child then, we have to see that we do justice to our children also.
- The worst victim of the dilemma is a woman who has to give justice to her family, including husband and children and also pursue her career also. In this struggle, what she looses is the concern and care for her own health. What is important here while pursuing career and also shouldering family responsibilities is that the woman has also to provide due attention towards her health and well-being.
- If any woman aspires to join in active politics then should she neglect her children? She should not join politics at the cost of neglecting her children. A woman has to wait till her children grows and reaches to a certain degree of maturity. This does not mean that a woman has to remain idle in her house. She should attend meetings, do some political ground work. She should also take her children wherever she goes in order that the children also learn from what is happening around.
- Today, we see women getting engrossed with TV serials and programs. The women are more confining themselves with four walls of their homes. The women entertain themselves with their family, relatives and neighbors. The women must open up their minds and heart to what is happening around them in various fields like politics, science etc. They should see and hear news and try to understand the happenings around them.
- Unless a woman has good knowledge, she can not play her effective role in politics. If a woman Sarpanch does not know much then, she will have to rely upon her husband or other family member for guidance.
- If a woman Sarpanch tries to get some information from her other colleagues then, people pass comments. Similarly if a man in the capacity of a Sarpanch tries to get information, people do not have any objection. This is because still we have a male dominated society where women are looked down as subordinate to men.
- Those capable women who get elected in the Panchayat should also help and support other aspiring women representatives to play their active role in politics. The women should unite together to show their presence and strength in the local self governance.
- The women are potentially powerful, they are the Goddesses. However, they have to realize and explore their potentialities.
Introduction was done by K. K. Mani. He put before the audience the struggling life of Smt. Prema Purav from childhood to this date covering 74 years of her life.
Prema Purav dealt with many topics. She touched upon some of the following important points:
- In the year 1959, Banks got nationalized due to the initiatives of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in order to seek economic growth of this country.
- Even today, a woman has not got equal rights. A woman is looked down. Is not a woman a human being? But there has always been a lower status for women in the male dominated social structure.
- She narrated her role in Goa freedom movement.
- She narrated stories about how female fetuses are aborted in various parts of India by citing concrete examples. She mentioned various heinous ways and means used by villagers to end the life of infant girl.
- We have to accept the truth that both man and woman are essential for the development of the nation.
Smt. Purav’s convincing and inspiring speech based on her own experiences about how women could unite and collectively work for their economic growth was indeed applauded by the audience.
Then, there was a song by Murari Bapu and team about women empowerment, “Badhana hai age badhana hai”.
The declaration for the 2nd National Rural Women Conference was read by Smt. Nirupama Mohanty wherein she resolved as follows:
“We, the women shall develop among ourselves the spirit of courage, strength and self-reliance. We shall work to educate and make literate the women community and thereby try to explore the innate capabilities that are hidden in them. We shall make effective use of Right to Information Act for seeking women’s rights. We shall use Panchayati Raj Act for empowering women community. We shall see that there is qualitative and quantitative improvement in the women participation during the Gram Sabhas. We shall fight against alcoholism and endeavour to make disease-free village. We shall generate awareness in our own family and also in the society against domestic violence”.
Shri K. K. Mani summarized the sessions of all three days and put before the audience his concluding remarks.
The three-day National conference of Rural Women ended with Swaraj Geet and National Anthem.
3.3 National Training Camp on Woman Leadership
As per decision and out come of national workshop on Re-visiting Gender Policy which held on 23-25 Nov. 2007 at Ranchi, Jharkhand, a 4 days training camp of selected women fellow and coordinators was held on05 – 08 Jan 2008 at Chennai, Tamilnadu. The key objective of the camp was to encourage and provides adequate input to women fellow and coordinator to enhance their leadership ability. 19 selected women fellows and coordinators along with 6 men coordinators took part in it. Ms. Jiji Haridas, Coordinator, NNSS and Mr. Pradeep Das, Coordinator jointly facilitated the camp.
Following key points were put forward for participatory deliberation before the participants;
Ø Social and political dimension of the leadership,
Ø Listing of efforts made as Social Activist for last 4 years,
Ø Positive and negative changes in you while performing as fellow and coordinator,
Ø Your liking and disliking as social leader,
Ø Identify your strength as social leader,
Following points emerged through group debate;
Ø There were big difficulties in moving out of the home earlier while starting work as fellow. The family guardian was extremely discouraging and non-cooperative. Now, they have faith and confidence and faith on us and have become capable to travel alone any where.
Ø As PDO leader, we came to know various skills, got confidence of talking to government officials and able to bring and implement welfare schemes. Now, capable in moving in the society, mobilising and convincing people and improving skills of running the affairs of the people organisation.
Ø Able to organise and facilitate various programme,
Ø Knowing about the Village Panchayat and able to mobilise people to participate in the Gram Sabha.
Ø More curiosity of about acquiring knowledge and skills. Now the men in the family also respect us for our growing ability and acceptance.
Ø Still lack of adequate self-study,
Ø Lack of adequate work speed,
Ø Lack of some the necessary skills like typing, accounting, better public speaking, better letter writing and drafting of circular, work presentation and media briefing etc.
Ø Not so prompt to follow the planned work,
Ø Dullness, unclear answer
Mr. Kumar Kalanand Mani responded on the point of above weakness and said that what ever you have achieved in 2 years as fellow and coordinator is excellent and hats of you. What ever weaknesses are reflected is quite natural and therefore you should not feel pressure of it. It is quite evident from your strength that you are moving in very positive direction and sharing above weaknesses reflects your sensitivity. 2 years is very little time to address above weaknesses while acquiring above stated strength.
POINTS FOR LEADERSHIP:
Ø Office management,
Ø Good listener,
Ø Understand others,
Ø Aware and sensitive on contemporary issues and the context,
Ø A communicator,
Ø Greed to enhance ability and skills,
Ø Able to mobile resources and use it properly with ethics,
Ø Always encouraging co colleagues in particular and people in general,
Ø Fearlessness and truthfulness
Ø Good rapport with the people
Ø Conscious about good / positive image,
The participants were requested to keep above parameter of a leader in their mind and make self-plan to imbibe it.