Gender Mela


th to 13th of February by The Women’s Development Cell,Miranda House, in collaboration with One Billion Rising, Men Engage, CFAR, WFS,CHSJ and other civil society partners. This synergy of various groups organised a critically aware,culturally tuned and a very carefully articulated event to celebrate the power of love and to accentuate Gender equality, Queer politics, the Rights of the LGBT community and issues such as the recognition and Rights of sex workers. The Mela also witnessed various cultural performances. Inaugurating the Gender Mela, Dr. Pratibha Jolly, Principal of Miranda House acknowledged that, “Colleges are spaces where we necessarily have to be reflective”. The need for the participation of men was also reiterated. The first session about “Gender, Masculinity and Sustainable Development” was presided over by Dr Bijaylaxmi Nanda, convenor WDC, Miranda House; Kamla Bhasin the spokesperson of One Billion Rising (OBR); Abhijit Das from Men Engage;  Smita Khanijow Project Officer Action Aid;  Dr.V.Rukmini Rao ,Executive Director of Gramya Resource Centre for Women and Rakhee Bakhshee,Director,Women’s Feature service (WFS). Explaining the issues of Gender, Masculinity and Sustainable Development, Kamla Bhasin, who has been very closely associated with WDC, Miranda House said, “Nature believes in diversity, not inequality or hierarchy. With inequality, development will not be sustainable”. Similarly, Abhijit Das explained that Men being in positions of power find little need to bring a change or be sensitive towards the cause of equality of sexes. It was emphasised that it is imperative for men to participate in bringing about a change. Numerous stalls were also put up by CFAR, Cequin, NASVI, Kriti, CHSJ, UN Women: He For She campaign. The stalls sold recycled products which included mugs, jewellery, t-shirts with witty quotes using attractive puns related to ‘Masculinity’ and thereby facilitating an understanding of the politics of Gender. A Debate with the motion proposing, ’Religion Adversely Affects Women’ was conducted, in which students from various universities participated. In addition, a very engaging seminar called, “Understanding Queer”, examined “Queer” and its politics. Jaya Sharma, a Queer Kinky Activist elucidated that, “Queer is not about our desires but about understanding the politics of our desires; about breaking rules shamelessly towards justice”. Aditi Angiras, a Queer poet and Rituparna Borah also exposed the inadequacy of the societal obsession with binaries and heteronormativity. The discussion gave insights into the flexibility which being Queer is committed to and a corollary of the session left everyone in retrospection, “Are we Queer Enough?” Various other events and discussions were also organised such as, “Multiple Masculinities in an Urban World and implications on struggle for Gender Justice”. The first evening of Gender Mela concluded with a performance by Goonj;The Sufi Rock Band. The Second day of Gender Mela started with a Round Table Discussion with the campaigners of contemporary social movements. Representatives from youth led movements like Happy to Bleed, The Pinjra Tod Campaign, The Rohit Vemula Campaign and the North East Network were invited. All the campaigners and participants agreed that the space of dissent is fast diminishing. However, the pressure has led to an equally powerful emergence of numerous student movements. It was observed that students and people from various walks of life are forming alliances.Student movements now do not merely see participation from a few parties. But individuals and autonomous movements are fast growing. An inter college street play competition, “Nukkad p charcha hai ki….”  was also organised. Memesis, The Theatre Society of Daulat Ram College won the first prize for their street play, “Humai Maramat ki Zaroorat hai”. Films such as ‘Mardistan’ and ‘The Danish Girl’ were also screened. A flash mob also happened as a part of the One Billion campaign, which is a global movement aiming to raise awareness in order to end violence against women. The Mela stretched into the evening with a performance by song writer and singer, Dhruv Vishwanath. The last morning of Gender Mela 2016, was charged with a distinct kind of energy to give it’s vision a powerful articulation. The highlight of Gender Mela, was a seminar “To Understand the Perspectives of Sexual Minorities”. This session was presided over by representatives from the communities of Sex workers. Ms Kusum, President of All India Network of Sex Workers (AINSW), Ms Tripti Tondon (Lawyers collective), Ms. Abhina Aher (Transgender Right Activist) and others closely associated with the Rights of Sexual Minorities and Sex Workers. The discussion was set into the right direction from the beginning, when the President of AINSW very powerfully asked the audience, “What do you think about us? What do you think about sex workers?”. The panel highlighted the unjust stigmatisation of the sexual labour of sex workers. They emphasised the need of recognising sex work as labour, it’s decriminalisation and their inclusion. It also called to attention the exploitation of Sex workers and the need for the recognition of their rights. The discussion raised awareness about the role of Sex workers as Health workers in helping the government in their HIV programmes and their efforts to stop trafficking by organising a Self regulatory Board. An independent series, “I Am a Girl”, by Rebecca Bary was also screened. The Mela witnessed yet another play, Dayar-e-Ulfat by Hansraj College. Simultaneously,another Round Table on issues of Marginalisation, intersectionality, Literature, Culture and History was conducted. The circle of participants included social activists, researchers, Writers and Practitioners like Rakhi Bakshi, from WFS (Women’s Feature Service), Ms Kalpana Mishra (Author of ‘Love Forever @Rajpath), Ms. Vinita Bakshee and Ms. Mansi Mishra. The Gender Mela concluded by a musical evening with Loknaad (people’s voice) ,the activist couple, who use the energy of music to express the plight and power of people.   Tooba Towfiq [email protected]]]>