Looking up with aspirations and the freedom of being bound by no fears, being an individual and needing no one to complete that identity, being a woman and rising with each step forward – Liberation, this is what it feels like. No I am not going on a fancy jargon talking about the relevance of lived experiences and gender sensitivity post the December 16th gang rape case as I think that is well established. But yes, I am talking about the inclusion of these lived experiences as a part and parcel of laying down the foundations of the numerous minds and attitudes that get shaped at colleges in Delhi University every day. I am talking about going that extra mile and to simply not wait for an event to shake us from the roots and later indulge in conversations expressing grief that last as long as a cup of coffee.
Tracing some of the initiatives and going back to endeavours that started with trying to create and move away from a patriarchal society, one simply can’t overlook the setting up and introduction of various Women’s Development cells in colleges all across Delhi University. The increasing relevance of the same is closely tied with the context in which there is a need for them to function. Structures of patriarchy, consequent years of oppression, every experience unfolding an untold story and reiterating the belief- “ the personal is political”, that every action in the confines of your domestic sphere builds up to form a reaction and possibly similar actions in the public sphere is an ideology which most of these societies aim at instilling in the youth today.
Some initiatives like the Sashakt which is a committee that strives for the empowerment and development of the students and faculty at Bharti College. It organizes several activities to help understand what is sexual harassment, educate students and staff on how to prevent and address harassment, and campaigns on prevention of sexual harassment through the medium of films, posters, banners, lectures and discussions to create awareness.
Lady Shri Ram College was one of the first few colleges in Delhi University to have started the Women’s Development Cell as a formal society in 1985. Banishing the view of being called “man haters”, this society aims at allowing its members to have a balanced view about the various gender issues that are a part of everyday living. It is an absolute necessity that every college has a women development cell as it opens up the minds on topics of sexuality, patriarchy and gender. In a series of events organised by this society, some of the ones that really stood out include a street play called Dastak by the Asmita Theatre Group. This street play was directed by Mr. Arvind Gaur and highlighted the heinous violence and harassment against women at public places. Additionally, the acclaimed documentary filmmaker Mr. Rahul Roy was invited for a discussion on ‘Masculinity and Gender Relations’. Deconstructing Gender, he brought to the fore the themes of masculinity and gender relations in the larger backdrop of caste, communalism, labour, class identities, culture and societal structures. In what constitutes an integral part of the curriculum of the cell, is the annual fest called “Udaan” every year showcasing plays starring eminent personalities like Tom Alter, panel discussions and heated debates amongst other activities.
In speaking to one of the members of the Women’s Development Cell from Kamla Nehru College, she was quoted saying “These societies are imperative not only because they help in overcoming gender as a social construct, but help in engaging with Gender as a process and as a reality that one deals with on a daily basis”
“One Billion Rising”, which was a global campaign for putting an end to such injustices was a smashing hit and it provided the societies of all these colleges to actively participate in the flash mob and the rallies. In a lot ways, it sent out a clear message of solidarity against these different forms of suppression of women and it was encouraging to see the huge numbers in which the youth had turned up with immense zeal and enthusiasm.
It is not just women’s colleges but Women Development Cells are an important hub of activity in Co-ed colleges as well. Colleges such as Kirori Mal, Venky and Shivaji have really active WDC forums. At KMC a lot of its work is undertaken by the college gender forum, Parivartan, though, which is one of the most active ones in the university.
Gender justice is now just not another feminist jargon concerning a certain section of the society, it is a responsibility that has now, more than ever before, assumed an unmatched level of importance and the setting up of Women’s Development Societies is no longer just an option but a necessity.
By Tanya Kak (email@example.com) and Niharika Singh (firstname.lastname@example.org)