On 17th July, 2011, Bitiya Club organized a one sensitization workshop in the backdrop of much-talked about Slut Walk/Besharmi Morcha. Venue of the workshop was RCVP Noronha Academy of Administration, Bhopal.
The overall objective of this workshop was to orient its members towards its objectives & activities, and then to discuss the issues at hand threadbare in order to arrive at some sort of an action plan.
Dr. Raka Arya of National Law Institute University, Bhopal and Dr. P.R. Deo of UNFPA were the Guests of Honour.
The programme started with a warm welcome to the Honorary Guests & the office-bearers of the club.
Ms. Shilpi Agnani, the Secretary of the club, gave her keynote address, wherein she talked about the idea behind the inception right from her stint with UNFPA, brief history and the vision for the future & social purpose of the club. Her address elaborated upon the idea of the club, its structure, membership, quasi-membership, activities etc.
Ruchi Nema very fondly recollected her childhood days wherein despite being a single girl child, she was pampered a great deal, and showered with abundant love throughout. She wondered how we could, the citizens of 21st century be so cruel & heartless that we kill our daughter’s even before they see the light of their own very existence!
In his Presidential address, the well known litterateur, Shri. Rajesh Joshi, emphasized upon bringing out a desirable change in our psyche/attitude vis-à-vis girl child. Later, in his speech, he said that the educated, middle class
can play this vital role of being the harbinger/nucleus of this attitudinal & behavioral change in the society at large, in the very context of girl child and declining & dismal sex-ratio throughout the world today. But for that, educated middle class has to create that critical mass which brings out a see change in our thinking & concepts, and then only we can say aloud: “Our Daughters, Our Pride.”
Thereafter, Dr. Alpana Verma gave a presentation about the brief history of the Club, and its objectives. The Club was registered as ‘Bitiya’ on 1st November, 2010. Its proclaimed objectives are as follows:
Objectives of the Club: In Brief
To create awareness against the sex-determination tests that are already notified as illegal & criminal acts.
To create a widespread social awareness against gender discrimination.
To help the parents of a single girl child, by building a network towards her career planning etc.
To publicly felicitate all those single girl-children who have achieved something exceptional & carved their own niche in their career or life, by presenting their case as en exemplary feat that needs to emulated.
To provide a suitable, and common platform to & for all the like-minded individuals/groups/agencies.
Arrange get-together of all the members from time to time.
Indulge in, and promote all such activities & endeavors that promote and strengthen the aforesaid objectives.
Dr. Raka Arya spoke in the larger context of women, all-round gender discrimination, and sexual harassment etc. She started with her observations/views about the widespread social prejudiced attitude against the women folk in general, concerning the girl child, in particular. She said that, in early days, parents would not want their daughters to go for a career in law, as they had many a misconception about the legal profession and the status of its female practitioners. But there has been a gradual shift in such anachronistic thinking, and which is not confined to our metros only, it has
also percolated into the psyche of our tier-2 cities like Bhopal. It is a welcome change, although there still remains a very long path to tread. She lamented the very fact that in our society, women/daughters are never considered as an individual in their own right. Their very existence is either appended to their patriarchal set-up or to her husband’s / in-laws’ legacy. She is never considered, or treated as an independent person having her own predilections, dreams, and wishes. Even in her old age, she remains subservient to her children’s, especially to her sons’ priorities and planning. Her persona remains largely dictated by the deep-rooted socialization of the stereotyped gender roles prevalent in our society. She is seen as a liability (unlike her male-siblings who are considered as assets to the family, carriers of the patriarchal legacy). Her upbringing & education is closely linked to the financial wherewithal of the family. In the overall gendered power dynamics, she is pushed down to remain a meek & mute observer & sufferer. Her suffering & sacrifices, whether as a daughter, sister, and wife or as a mother are unduly glorified in order to keep this so-called ‘balance’ intact. Her gendered tasks always remain undervalued vis-à-vis those of her men folk. And this scourge of dowry has afflicted our society to the extent that we don’t feel any shame, or guilt while indulging into such ‘transactions’ that are detrimental to the very existence of a woman’s dignity.
Even in her husband’s house, she is considered as a credit card which is redeemed from time to time, and when that credit card reaches its ‘limit’ her in-laws don’t suffer even an iota of guilt while ‘dumping’ her altogether either by burning her alive or beating her to death.
In the end, Dr. Arya put very pertinent & piercing questions up for us to ponder:
1. Why there is no emotional security for our girls?
2. Why marrying her off is considered so much necessary that all the other aspects/stages of her life become subservient to it?
3. Why is she subjugated to play a role of sub-ordination throughout?
4. Why she is not accorded the dignity which is her due right for being an individual per se?
5. Why the very arrival a girl-child in her family, right from the day one, is taken up as a sunk cost?
6. Why her own happiness is kept mortgaged to her parental home, her in-laws, and finally to her children?
7. Why the gender-ratio is so grim in our ‘shining’ India?
8. Why our women-folk has become a ‘commodity’ in our fiercely market driven society?
9. Why our system so insensitive to its women participants?
10. Why her contributions, both in the domestic as well as professional domain, remain largely neglected & undervalued?
11. And ultimately why is she kept as a hostage to very narrowly defined stereotyped roles of a mother, a sister, a daughter, a wife wherein her own career & aspirations remain chained to such narrow categories?
In the post-lunch session, Mrs. Kaneez Razavi, a Bitiya member, demonstrated a study tool namely the ‘PEN’ which can be used for spreading awareness among the illiterate, for study purposes of non formal education etc. Ms. Razavi deliberated on as to how the talking pen can be instrumental in enhancing contact where, with ‘a single pen and teacher’ the listening, speaking, and reading skills of a group can be worked on along with health and literacy related issues. She explained that this tool could be used by Bitiya or any other organization for spreading the message of gender equality among masses.
In his speech, Dr. Agnani talked about the complexities, intricacies involved in the social conceptualization & awareness with respect to overall scenario of gender discrimination, rapidly declining sex ratio and the dire need of widespread & large-scale women empowerment. He elaborated upon the challenges ahead in order to achieve the objectives of the Bitiya club in the context of limited resources at hand, so a pressing need of resource mobilization for the purposes.
He cautioned that while working towards the avowed objectives, you would encounter a strong sense of denial to start with. Community, at the outset, would refuse to recognize gender discrimination as their problem. They would deny its very existence, while the harsh & cruel facts/stats would be indicating to the contrary. He concluded by saying that the solution of our problems does not lay solely in legal domain, nor it is located in the societal arena. He strongly urged that to bring the desirable & positive change, one has to start at his/her very level. While attempting to change the society at large, we have to first bring that change in ourselves, in our thinking, in our attitude, in our practices, in our behavior, and in our interactions.
Finally, members of the club, one by one voiced their opinions, their voluntary commitments and their suggestions for carrying this movement of ‘gender equality & equity’ further. Like, Ms. Shilpi Agnani spelt about what she can do for advocacy vis-à-vis RTE, free education for a single girl child. Mrs. Anjali Mishra volunteered to help out with logistic arrangements for programs of Bitiya in the future.
In the final session of participatory multi-logue, numerous beautiful, very workable ideas were pitched-in by the honorable club members to work upon, e.g. organizing a Bitiya Marathon every year on 1st November, the foundation day of the club. This will create a widespread social awareness about the issues we are grappling with; secondly some surplus-generating venture with its motto in the adage ‘Dhanda is Better than Chanda’ wherein some sort of eco-friendly commercial activity like making paper-bags etc. would be taken up for our cause.
And yes, an idea of organizing a picnic of club members was also mooted. The day ended with a vote of thanks proposed by Mr. Manoj Chaturvedi.