A look at the controversy and the arguments surrounding the decision to field an all male panel during Day 1 of Kirori Mal College’s Women Conclave, organised by National Service Scheme unit’s Women Empowerment Cell, Sahas.
The annual Kirori Mal Women Conclave was held on the 23rd and 24th September in the college campus. However, when the speakers for the panel discussion to be conducted on Day 1 was revealed, it turned out that an event which claimed to celebrate ‘Women and womenhood’ did not have a single female panelist, with the only one keynote speaker being female, Ms. Ira Singhal. The speakers announced for the panel discussion on Day 1 were Mr. Kanishk Priyadarshi and Mr. Pavitra Paruthi from Scoopwhoop, and Mr. Ankush Bahugana from MensXP. This decision was heavily criticized profusely on social media, as many came forward with the irony in representation in an event organized by the Women’s Develpoment Cell, and on the topic “Women and womenhood”
The repercussions of this event were felt on Day 1 itself, when Mr. Bahugana backed out from the event, citing that the panel discussion should have had female representation. Alongside this, the event was also met with protestors holding up banners during the panel session protesting against the lack of female representation. On speaking to one of the protestors, Adrija, a first-year student, she said, “In every panel, every field around the world, men are the dominant people who are part of these discussions, so I feel that in places like women conclaves which is on women’s issues, women are severely needed, So kya point hai discussion ka (What’s the point of a discussion).” She also stated that the discussion got derailed because the panel didn’t talk about major issues. She mentioned that there was no representation of transwomen or the queer community in this year’s event.
On 23rd September, the instagram handle of Sahas uploaded a post reaffirming their ideas, and justifying their decisions.
View this post on Instagram
We have witnessed a certain backlash regarding our all male panel for the day 1 of the Women Conclave 2019. Yes, it is true that the panel consists of all men but we took this subsequently intentional and bold step to convey and put forward certain views. Firstly, we believe that it is not only women who have the responsibility to empower other women. Voices of women are heard. But is not only the duty of other women to echo those voices. Next, Women Conclave is simply about celebrating womenhood and supporting hardworking women. Is women empowerment so sacred that only women have the right to talk about it? We certainly disagree. Furthermore, we did try to contact certain women we thought would make this panel even more admirable than it already is. However, due to certain reasons and their prior commitments, it could not happen. We cannot ignore the fact that for the past 2 Conclaves, we have had only women talking about women’s issues. This year also, majority of the sessions are dominated by strong women. The all male panel is indeed a controversial step but we do not regret it and are rather excited about it because at the end of the day, everyone has something to say. Nevertheless, we do have a female panellist who will be moderating this panel. So we request you all to kindly attend the session. We promise to answer all your questions. Yours sincerely, Arshita Chaurasia Head Coordinator
On speaking to Arshita Chaurasia, the head event coordinator for the event and the treasurer of the NSS unit, it was mentioned that women speakers were invited for Day 1, but they weren’t available. She stated that the idea of all male panel was taken to the Convenor and the Principal and they felt there was no such issue, as men should speak on these issues and be educated as well on women empowerment. Dr. Benu Gupta, the program officer for NSS said “What we are looking for is of course women empowerment and capacity building of women. But ultimately society is made equally by men and women so if we only keep on empowering women and not sensitizing the men and we won’t hear men about what they are experiencing, then it doesn’t make any sense. You are biased if you are not taking men on board.” It was also pointed out that six of the ten speakers were women, when taking into consideration both days of the event. To strengthen her argument, Dr. Gupta also pointed out that for something like the keynote session held by Mr. Rakshit Tandon on Day 1, on the topic of cyber security, expertise and knowledge was the determining factor and not gender.
Feature Image Credits: Stuti Srivastava for La Voice KMC
Prabhanu Kumar Das