The fest season has begun and so have the stories of chaos, harassment, and safety issues at these prestigious cultural festivals. Let’s see what went down at Tempest 2019.

Tempest 2019, the three-day Annual Cultural Festival of Miranda House took place from 14th to 16th February 2019. Reports of chaos, security breach, rape threats, and harassment arose on Day 2 and Day 3 of the fest.

On 15th February, a message from the Women’s Development Cell (WDC) was circulated for the girls to be safe as allegedly, some members of the Delhi University Students’ Union (DUSU) had barged into the college campus, and were acting very violently and threatening people with rape threats. An anonymous source from the WDC security team shared her experience, stating that on the same day she noticed something weird going on around the entrance to the barricaded women’s area. When she went to investigate, she saw a few men who were trying to intimidate volunteers into letting them enter. When she asked them to leave, they retorted, saying, Aapko pata hai hum kaun hain? Humare saath Shakti Singh hai.” (Do you know who we are? Shakti Singh, the President, DUSU, is with us.)

When these people were blocked and not allowed to enter, they retreated but only with threats like “we’ll come back soon- just wait and watch” and “aaj 20 log laaye hai, kal 500 laayenge” (Today we have brought 20 people, tomorrow we’ll bring 500). She also added- “This kind of hooliganism has increased in the campus. There were men from Hindu College who had infiltrated the crowd, asking about the people who had taken part in the V-Tree protest the previous day.”

Anoushka Sharma, a second-year student from Delhi School of Journalism and a Copy-editor at DU Beat, also shared her horror story from Day 3 at Tempest. She stated that while entering the college on the third day of the fest, she was trying to show her media pass at the entrance to enter when a guy pushed her and said in a very rude tone- “Madam ji, kya kar rahi hain?” (Madam, what are you doing?). At first, she ignored but he was persistent and kept on insisting. When she told him about the media passes, he again said in a harsh tone- “Tameez nahi hai baat karne ki? (Don’t you have any manners?). Seconds later, the guards opened the door and at that moment people started touching and groping her. She quoted, “The lady security guard had to hold me since I almost fell on the ground, and she told me to go inside through the lawns since there was less crowd there.”

Talking about the ruckus created at the gates, the Head of Security from Miranda House’s WDC told DU Beat that due to the crowd build-up at the gate, the Principal had to open the gate when 50 to 100 unidentified individuals without passes barged inside the college. She also added that men came up to her, and to the Vice-President of the Student Union to threaten them by quoting their support from DUSU. When they were refused entry, they said, “Agli baar toh fest hi nahin hoga.(We won’t let the fest happen next time.” She added- “There was a sense of fear in the environment and the girls were uncomfortable by the presence of such people.”

When DU Beat contacted the Vice-President, she denied the story, saying that she personally didn’t hear any comments; however, due to the rush outside the gates, she talked to Shakti Singh who said that none of his people were involved in any such threats and misbehaviour. She also stated, “The passes said entry till 2 P.M. and people didn’t follow that which created more ruckus but actions were taken and things went smoothly later.”

These incidents are examples which show unsafe environment at fests. Even in a fest regulated with passes, unidentified crowd entered in mobs through the front gates and created a ruckus, not only threatening the attendees but also the organisers and volunteers. These prestigious annual cultural fests are the platform of growth and inclusivity which have now unfortunately become spaces for assault and harassment.

Feature Image Credits: Namrata Randhawa

Sakshi Arora

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The second day of the event on 16th January 2019, began with the 3rd technical seminar of the four seminars on Gender Parity: Issues and Challanges, titled “Barriers of Entry for Women in State and National Politics” which was to be a seminar conducted by Dr. Gilles Verniers, yet due to some problems the Doctor had to cancel and the day started with the fourth Technical seminar, titled “Media from Women’s Perspective” chaired by Ms. Pamela Philipose and Ms. Navika Kumar.
The first speaker was Ms. Kumar, who is the Managing Editor, Politics at TIMES NOW. A post graduate in economics, she has equal command in covering economics as well as political issues. She initiated her talk with asking a simple question, “Are we seeing enough gender parity in jobs?.” She talked about how there are more women in reporting but not in editing or other technical jobs in the media field. There is scope for gender parity and the glass ceiling that had been holding women back has begun to crack, but the final push needed to break it is still missing. She continued to give the example of the parliament, the apex institution, which is the core of empowering, hasn’t empowered women, talks of 33% reservation for women seem futile and unachievable. On a better note however gender parity in the classroom has become better, the HR ministry research has shown that in higher education women are taking bigger strides and it is men who are falling behind. She invoked and praised the new woman of India, who doesn’t hold back. She also however criticised the research nos. as skewed because they only look at women in urban centres where as the majority of population and women are still in rural areas where change Is yet to come. She finally ended with an example of a problem that she herself had to go through, of women having to prove themselves after coming back from maternity leaves or women having to prove themselves to be as good as any other male anchor and raising the voice that men and companies need to help women going through childbirth not make life harder and provide necessary benefits.
The second speaker was Ms Philipose, she is one of the most respected names in Indian Journalism at present, working as an Editor at the Indian Express. She started her talk with a personal experience about the condition and need for proper washrooms in all organisations for women. In India there is a 4-1 ratio of male is to female in the media field jobs. This changes how news forms. The people in power in India decide what is news and hence there should be an equal representation and parity. Not just women but other people from disadvantaged people like dalits and tribals etc. Who are outside of this sphere. She urged us to ask ourselves “Whose voice is being representated?” Some powerful people controlling the narrative and some powerless people who are being ignored. She then moved on to detail some stats that being, difference between women media personnel in urban (50-50) and district areas (2.5% women only). She then further discussed the issue that Ms. Kumar had discussed that of women should be entitled to some benefits like maternity ones. She told us about the first question that she was asked when she went for a job interview in the 80’s “You just got married will you be having children?” A company will have to invest more in women if they need maternity needs and benefits. It’s slightly better now as men are also slowly and slowly partaking in child rearing and care as well. Management cutting down on security and benefits increases the risks on women she said, to prove this point she gave examples of the Indian TV journalist who was shot when going back home at night 2 o clock, a Mumbai photo journalist subjected to gang rape by a large media house. When women speak out, they cross a red line. Gauri Lankesh was killed because she spoke out and expressed her views. Rina Pongum was shot because she dared to write about mining contracts in North East. Raksha Kumar reporting from bastar would always be asked that as a woman does she know anything? she doesn’t even know how to carry a gun how can she report from a conflict zone. Most common form of abuse is abuse of authority and most of these oppressors are male.
She talked about a silent pact between different media house heads that they don’t show oppression in each other’s organisations aren’t shown, and that’s how these oppressions are invisibalised. She took a moment to commend the “Me too” movement that became a milestone in taking the fight back and gender parity. Social media became a tool to help women speak out while being anonymous as well. She also told the audience about the magazine from Bundelkhund ‘Khabr Lahriya’ talking about women oppressions and storied etc. Government had to act. Mainstream media is having to catch up with social media. Smartphones have become empowering to those who are oppressed. She also lay down a slight warning about data as the new oil, which will fuel the next wave if information revolution that is Artificial Intelligence. She finally addressed the issue of the sticky floor that holds the women back from even reaching the glass ceiling let alone breaking it. She ended on a high note however by saying that “Women have also shown that they can negotiate in the public space understanding the risks and building partnerships.”
At around 2 o’clock for the Jijabai award ceremony, awards were presented by the principal Dr. Shashi Nijhawan to men and women who are working to improve the ground condition of women and empowering others around them. This year’s winners were:
1. Dr. Shyam Sundar Paliwal
2. Vidya Nambirajan
3. Sister Annie Jeasus
4. Lakshmi Menon
5. Dr. Manish Gupte
After the awardees were presented with their awards, the day finally came to an end with a ghazal performance by Dr. Radhika Chopra, who lit the whole hall with radiance and lightened the mood and the ambience with her amazing and melodic performance. This marked the end of the 10th annual Jijabai award ceremony, who promised to return next year to recognise more people who are working to make this country and its women move forward.

Feature Image Credits: Shivaji College
Haris Khan
[email protected]

ghazal performance by Dr. Radhika Chopra, who lit the whole hall with radiance and lightened the mood and the ambience with her amazing and melodic performance. This marked the end of the 10th annual Jijabai award ceremony, who promised to return next year to recognise more people who are working to make this country and its women move forward. Feature Image Credits: Shivaji College Haris Khan [email protected]]]>

Pragati, the Women’s Development Cell of Daulat Ram College, organised an Inter-College Debate Competition on the motion, “Women’s Empowerment lies in Women Choosing for Themselves” on 7 February, 2018.

The cell received over seventy registrations from various colleges across different universities and thus conducted a preliminary round for the top finalists.

The jury consisted of honourable guests like, Dr. Monika Vij (Associate Professor, Miranda House College) and Dr. Padmshree Mudgal (Associate Professor, Daulat Ram College). Dr. Savita Roy, Principal of Daulat Ram College along with Dr. Anita Garg Mangla (Convenor, WDC) graced the occasion with their enlightening words.

The enthusiastic participants brought forth a wide range of perceptions and thus engaged in fruitful arguments. The winners were awarded cash prize and certificates of merit along with vouchers. The prizes were as follows:
Best Team, Best Speaker, Best Interjection(Participants), and Best Interjection(Audience).

The event ended on a positive and happy note with a group discussion whereby all the participants, audience and the teachers voiced their opinions on the motion freely.

WDCs play an essential role in generating a crucial debate around everyday sexism, ignorance, and discrimination. Here’s a look at a few active WDCs across Delhi University.

WDCs across DU organise debates, discussions, and seminars related to gender studies and discrimination.  These cells serve the purpose of actively promoting gender equality.  Some colleges have very active WDCs that had been established decades ago, while others came by as late as 2015. Most students were of the opinion that the WDC in their college functions well and strives hard for student welfare.

1) Lady Shri Ram College for Women (LSR)-

LSR got its WDC as early as 1985. Oppressive relationships, sexual harassment, and self-discovery are all topics WDC LSR has talked about. It has organized events like “Let’s talk”, which allows participant to talk about their problems confidentially. Gender sensitivity workshops and film-making lessons are all activities and events organised by WDC LSR. The cell also hosts awareness seminars about breast cancer and cervical cancer. Nitika, a student from LSR says, “The WDC in LSR is quite active, they organise events from time to time.”

2) Miranda House-
Workshops, documentary screenings, discussions are all organized regularly by WDC Miranda. A short certification course on Women and Law in India has now become an integral part of the college by now. It hosts a three day annual fest called the Gender Mela that comprises of seminars, discussions, talks, skits, and exhibitions. Oorja Tapan, a third year Miranda House student says, “People like Kamla Bhasin are a regular feature. Last year, our initiative “Letters to Patriarchy” in collaboration with Breakthrough Blog was a massive hit”. Overall, they are very active.”

3) Daulat Ram College (DRC)-
Daulat Ram College’s WDC has started organising considerably impactful events recently. Workshops titled “Not just a piece of cloth”, lectures from gynaecologists on women’s health, on academics, on women’s right to property,  and the right to justice have taken place. Street plays like “Dastak” and “Ab Bas” are organised, and the film screening of “Izzatnagari Ki Asabhya Betiyan” with Director Nakul Singh Sawhney was held. Donation drives and debates are regularly organised. Naimisha Singh from WDC DRC says, “The cell has organised various events- film screening, self-defence training programme, and has also celebrated with Palna (an orphanage). Our members go and teach the children in terms of academic and health care education. Idea is if we are empowering others then we are also empowering ourselves.”

4) Acharya Narendra Dev College (ANDC)-

ANDC’s Women Empowerment Society named “Sashakt”, organise workshops and invite experts for seminars. They have conducted health check-ups for women and ran a workshop on ovarian cancer as well. Rallies on Women’s Day and competitions are also held. Vaibhav, Gender Champion and Society Head, Sashakt, says “We also run an add on course known an Legal Awareness Course in association with the Delhi State Legal Service Authority and it’s taken by the judges of Saket.”

5) Shivaji College, Delhi College of Arts and Commerce (DCAC), Indraprastha College for Women (IPCW), and Sri Venkateswara College also have active WDCs. In the past, it was just women’s colleges that had active gender cells and they did a lion’s share of work. Co-educational institutes now seem to be able to keep up with women’s colleges in terms of active gender cells. Sexual orientation, health and sanitation, emotional well-being, and self-defence lessons are all areas that WDCs now work on. However, not all colleges have well-functioning gender cells even now which limits the area of influence WDCs have considerably. For WDCs to become a reliable platform for feminism and gender equality, their presence and active participation in every college is necessary. Active participation from students, support from the administration and an increase in resources can contribute to this change.


Feature Image Credits: Miranda House Women’s Development Cell

Kinjal Pandey

[email protected]

In the wake of mass molestation at Bengaluru which sent shock waves around the nation, colleges in University of Delhi (DU) are going a step ahead by encouraging students to enroll for self-defence classes, and some are even imparting skill development training to empower.

Kirori Mal College (KMC) organised a 15 day long self-defence training camp for girls in collaboration with Delhi Police. “It’s difficult to change the sick mindset in our country. Women empowerment should be more than a slogan. Through this self-defence training, we will enable girls to defend themselves when in need” says Nikhil Agrawal, a third year student of the college. The program which is an initiative of SAHAS – Women Empowerment Cell of the NSS unit of the college started on January 9th.

Hindu College also started a self-defence and skill development program called Project Veerangana. An initiative of Enactus Hindu, the program imparts basic self-defence training for women and also helps them to turn their self-defence skills into a source of livelihood. “The objective of our project is not to just impart self-defence training to women but also help them become young entrepreneurs so that they can market their skills for a basic livelihood and teach more women how to be safe,” said Vishruti Jain, president of Enactus Hindu College. Under a three-tier process, the first 10 days saw a workshop conducted by the special police unit for women and children in association with Evergreen Public School. The self-defence workshop included 40 school students and 30 women from the slum area. After the training process, these women will in turn impart lessons to the other women under the supervision of colleges and schools. The program plans to impart lessons of entrepreneurship and communications to them, so that they can earn a livelihood by imparting these lessons in schools and colleges.

Satyawati College has also begun its self defence training program for girls which would be of 15 days beginning from 20th January. This initiative is being taken up by the NSS unit of the college in collaboration with Delhi Police Ashok Vihar police station. Rashi Nimi, the NSS vice president of Satyawati College says, “Crime is increasing day-by-day and so are the numbers of molestation cases. In such times, it is important that women be empowered in whatever way they can be. The students are very happy that such programs are being conducted, and if the response is good, we will organise it again.”

With growing cases of molestation in colleges and DU being a top choice of meritorious girls across the country, the colleges are serious towards ensuring safety of their students.

Srivedant Kar

[email protected]

Image credits: Prithvijeet Singh Thakur, KMC

th 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 protected]) and Niharika Singh ([email protected])]]>

The Students’ Union and the Women’s Development Cell of Lady Shri Ram College organized a forum, “Let’s Talk” for the students on 22nd January. The idea behind this forum was to make the students aware of the violence faced by people around them, and to get them to open up and “talk” about these things without any apprehensions.

The one and a half hour event saw active participation from the 40 students that attended the forum, out of which 6 – 7 students mustered up the courage to talk about their unfortunate experiences. More students were eager to participate but could not do so due to time constraints. Out of the students who spoke about their experiences, some mentioned being abused by their fathers, while some were raped and never got to raise their voice thereafter.

The forum managed to leave an impact on everybody- some even left the place teary eyed. “I’ve been to such forums before, but it was really shocking to know that even around us, the people we pass by every other day have been victims of such awful acts”, said Sonakshi, a second year Philosophy Hons student.

This is the first of a series of forums to be held in the premises of LSR. It will be followed by “Let’s Act” and other such programmes to empower young people who have been treated in unjust ways and to give them a chance to speak up against such acts of ruthlessness.