In 1910 in Copenhagen, a group of women in pursuit of equal employment opportunities came together at an International Conference of Working Women and created the idea of celebrating an international day for women. 2011 marks the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day. And the theme for this year was: Equal access to education, training and science and technology: Pathway to decent work for women.
Abstract of UNO’s Secretary-General's Message on International Women's Day 8th March 2011 .
One hundred years ago, when the world first commemorated International Women’s Day, gender equality and women’s empowerment were largely radical ideas. On this centenary, we celebrate the significant progress that has been achieved through determined advocacy, practical action and enlightened policy making. Yet, in too many countries and societies, women remain second-class citizens.
Although the gender gap in education is closing, there are wide differences within and across countries, and far too many girls are still denied schooling, leave prematurely or complete school with few skills and fewer opportunities. Women and girls also continue to endure unacceptable discrimination and violence, often at the hand of intimate partners or relatives. In the home and at school, in the workplace and in the community, being female too often means being vulnerable. And in many conflict zones, sexual violence is deliberately and systematically used to intimidate women and whole communities.
Another area where we urgently need to see significant progress is on women’s and children’s health. The September 2010 Summit on the Millennium Development Goals recognized the central importance of this issue, and Member States and the philanthropic community have pledged strong support for my global strategy to save lives and improve the health of women and children over the next four years.
In the realm of decision-making, more women, in more countries, are taking their rightful seat in parliament. Yet fewer than 10 percent of countries have female heads of state or government.
Even where women are prominent in politics, they are often severely under-represented in other areas of decision-making, including at the highest levels of business and industry. A recent UN initiative – the Women’s Empowerment Principles, now embraced by more than 130 major corporations – aims to redress this imbalance.
About Bitiya Club: “Bitiya” A movement and mission to feel proud having a daughter. Bitiya club constituted as NGO with this theme is also committed to address gender and women’s empowerment issues.
About the event on 08 March 2011:
The declining trend in sex ratio at birth since last two decades is particularly worrisome, as it points to the increased incidence of sex selection practices. It also reflects patriarchal mindset of the community and gender bias prevalent in the society. It is disheartening to note that sex selection practices are more prevalent in socio economic developed class of the society and has a direct relation with availability and access to ultrasonography screening facilities. Although, as per 2001 census, CSR of Madhya Pradesh (932) is marginally better than the national CSR (927), more than 10 districts in the state have CSR less than the national average. CSR of five major cities of the state (Bhopal, Gwalior, Jabalpur, Indore and Ujjain) has shown a decline in CSR by 13 to 43 points from 1991. Sample Registration Scheme of registrar general Of India showing sex ratio of the state as 913 in 2006 is a cause of concern.
Since gender issues, empowerment of girls and women and their status in the society is an important contributor for declining sex ratio at birth, the organization decided to arrange a cultural event on 08 March to observe International women’s day in a different way focusing on status of women, on the theme of international Women’s day for 2011, on sex selection issues and concerns. The purpose of the cultural event was very loud and clear, to change the mind set of community and to feel proud about a daughter, and to provide her best access and opportunities for educational, cultural and social development.
Dr. Nisha Dubey, Vice Chancellor, Barkatullah University, Bhopal was the chief guest of the event. During her speech, she highlighted on following key areas:
She congratulated on the formation of this unique club. She said that she too is a proud mother of a single girl child and she knows how the traditional society views such parents with uncalled for sympathy and pity. She expressed that the misconception in the society that, the heritage one could pass on consisted only of material values, whereas in fact the heritage was much more than mere material values. It included the entire value structure and attitude towards life. She stressed that we have given all the positive values and optimism to our daughters and we are proud that they are worthy inheritors of what we will leave behind.
Dr. Dubey further said that, “in the audience all those who are convinced about the gender equality are present but it is necessary to carry this message to the sections of society who need it the most. I am sure that in future this club will cater to this section of society also with a sense of urgency that this matter deserves.”
Mr. Rajesh Joshi, President of the organization during his welcome address briefed the audience on objectives and mission of Bitiya Club. Exploding the myths concerning son preference in Indian society he said that sons only carry forward the surname but daughters are the source of many generations to come. He said that the cobwebs surrounding traditions for son preference had to be cleared and Bitiya club apart from being an organization of likeminded people is determined to carry the message of gender equality with greater emphasis to the section of the society which is not yet fully convinced about gender equality.
Dr.P.R.Deo, UNFPA State Program Coordinator read out the message of UNFPA Executive Director released on International Women’s day 2011. he emphasized on all out actions at individual, family and at society level to make conscious efforts towards women’s empowerment issues, gender equity issues and more important valuing the girl child. He also shared on the adverse social implications of declining sex ratio at birth and in what way community can contribute to reversing this ratio. He appreciated initiatives of Bitiya club and assured to provide continued support to such organizations working for feeling proud about having a girl child.
Mr. Parmod Dubey, a renowned journalist, shared his experiences. He shared his experience about a survey conducted by him in many schools where he had asked students only onequestion. “Who prepares tiffin for you in the morning when you leave for school?” The invariable answer that he got; “it is my mother.” He added that a Mother’s sense of responsibility is not born out of a sense of obligation but it is pure love. If you do away with girl child you do away with a mother of tomorrow; then what about the day after?
Billabong high international school students presented a skit on status of woman in society and on sex selection issues through very positive messages.
It was a mime in which the apprehensions and anxieties of a newly married girl were portrayed. After harrowing experiences of repeated sex selective elimination of her female feotuses; the girl musters the courage to stand up against injustice and oppression thus brings an end to it and finally gives birth to a daughter. The mime was beautifully choreographed and set to enchanting music.
Billabong high international school students also made a power point presentation of photo documentation done by a freelance photojournalist Ms. Ruhani kaul
The documentary highlighted the ill effects of sex selective abortions through stories of helplessness, treachery and callousness from Punjab and Haryana. She begins her presentation with the following narrative “As the pendulum swings alarmingly towards a lopsided sex ratio, women are being reduced to fertility machines for male heirs, trafficked for marriage or even shared among brothers.”
The photographs potrayed an irresistible desire in society for a son preference and inequality of genders where woman is relegated to the position of a mere commodity.
Opportunity of the cultural event was utilized to felicitate few parents from poor socioeconomic class who made conscious efforts to value their girls and provided them opportunities for best possible education and development.
Not to leave the audiences with negative messages few positive cases were identified from Bhopal and these families were felicitated by Bitiya club on the occasion. Some volunteers fromeducation department identified 2 families who value their daughters and do not discriminate despite their poor socio economic background. Ms. Shilpi Agnani, Secretary Bitiya Club visited these families prior to the program and invited them for the same.
Case 1: Devkan Kuruveti , aged 23 years stays at a village in Ratibad, Bhopal with her parents and brother. Both her parents are labourers who work at the stone quarry near their home. Devkan has seen her parents as labourers ever since she remembers. Despite dire circumstances and poverty her parents got her and her siblings educated. Her younger sister stays in the village with her grandmother and is presently in class 12th. Devkan is doing her MA in hindi literature and plans to do Phd. some day. She says that her parents have never discriminated against their daughters and have given equal opportunity to all their children to study as much as they wish to. She is very proud of her parents as much as they are of her.
Case 2 : Smt. Geeta Mehar is indeed a woman of immense fortitude; very empowered unlike many other women of her times. 12 years back, after her second daughter was born Geeta’s husband told her that she will be allowed to come to his house only if she leaves both her daughters back at her mother’s place. He was however willing to keep their son who is the eldest child, with him. Despite being uneducated Geeta took a strong stand which many educated and self reliant women would also not dare to. She walked out of her marriage when her husband asked her to choose between him and their two daughters. She also wanted to bring back her son but her husband refused to part with him as he was a ‘SON’. Since then she has never looked back. Her husband remarried but Geeta dedicated her life to educate her daughters. She worked as an agricultural labourer most of the time and provided opportunities of education to her daughters. She also taught them to be self reliant and courageous. As a result her elder daughter Preeti aged 18 years completed her Diploma in Computer Applications and she used to travel to and fro from her village to Bhopal, every day for her job which she took up in order to support her further studies. She is presently doing 12th privately and aims to take up a job in future to support her mother and provide her younger sister Priya with the best of education. Preeti is very vocal about her views on marriage and says that she will get married only on the condition that her would be husband is ready to take on the responsibility of her mother and younger sister as she plans to support her family after marriage. However, presently her focus is on higher studiesand to find a decent job for herself. She is very proud of her mother and says that “ My Mother’s life is an example for many women who give into the ill intentions of their husbands and in-laws and do away with their own child.”
The finale of the evening was a drama titled Astitva enacted by Shadow Group from Bhopal. It was based on a book written by Dr. D.U.Pathak ‘Yeh Kaisi Bidai Papa (What a farewell Daddy). The drama opens with the scene wherein two unborn female twins delighted over their existence begin a dialogue with each other and their parents who cannot hear them.
The play moves at two levels. One being the dialogue between two twin sisters inside the womb of mother another being the reaction that of the couple reacting to pregnancy and husbands insistence for sonography test to know the gender of the fetus.
The dialogues between two siblings are scathing attack on the incomprehensible absurdities of the situations as they develop. They come as stinging attack on the mindset for male preference in a society which prides itself on the traditions of Goddess worship.
On another plane there is situation of conflict when after sonography it is detected that the woman is pregnant with two girls. She is forced by her husband to opt for abortion in spite of her entreaties not to take such a step. The pathos of the mother hood are very effectively conveyed by the character. There is twist in the tale at the fag end when it is brought to light that the abortion did not take place due to resistance of mother at the last stage. Thus conveying a positive message.
RESPONSES FROM THE AUDIENCE:
The audience was very receptive and enjoyed the play. After the entire program was over, the audience heartily applauded and many of them expressed the opinion that such programs should be staged at different places to sensitize the people for whom this message is necessary.
“Thanks a lot for giving such a wonderful opportunity to attend a nice concept. It helped me to recall and reawaken our pledge as daughters to make our parents proud and to love our daughters more and more every day.” – Mrs. Kiran Mishra
“Congratulations! Play was ultimate. Learnt a lot. For the first time realized the importance of being a daughter. I am proud to be a daughter now.” – Ms. Ashu Mittal
“The Bitiya program, uniquely designed to celebrate the girl child, staged one of the most touching mime by school kids. I was quite impressed by the documentary presented by the young girls too. Hats off for such an amazing concept.” – Ms. Lipika Nanda