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Women And Sense Of Solidarity

It is both a pleasure and privilege for me to be here today. A pleasure because I am in the enviable company of such distinguished lady participants. A privilege because such invitation is not accorded to any Tom, Harry and Dick. I am therefore truly honored and for this I must thank the organizers of the UGC’s Sensitivity, Awareness and Motivation (SAM) workshop   for Capacity Building of Women Managers in Higher Education for giving me time, place and space to interact and share with you my humble thoughts on issues confronting women today.

Well, my dear participants, I must begin my speech with a disclaimer that I am not an expert on women studies. Nor am I an expert on women perspectives. Therefore whatever I am going to say and/or submit here is to be taken/interpreted as an academic exercise, an academic point of view. Just one more and/or another way of looking at things. Nothing more. Nothing less.

There was a time, more than a century and a half back when a specter was haunting the entire Europe. The specter of communism. The fact that communism had changed the face of almost half of the world’s total population is a different story and beside the point here. Today another specter is haunting not only the entire Europe but the whole world. The specter of women issues. “Womenism” if I may call it.

Everywhere everybody who is somebody or aspires to be somebody is talking/discussing/deliberating women’s issues. Suddenly women have become a Force, a Force to reckon with as if they were not a Force in earlier times.

What are the women’s issues? Let me generalize some of them.

1) Women are discriminated in all walks of life

2) Women are subjugated and dominated

3) Women are exploited

4) Women are underrepresented in decision-making bodies.

These are some of the most important issues that dominate academic and/or non-academic discourse or discussion all over the world. And I could not agree with these more. But to me, these issues do not represent the core issue confronting women today. The real core issue, as far as I am concerned and I would like to believe that I am as concerned as you are about the women’s cause, is something hidden somewhere within women themselves. Let me put the core issues this way:

1) There is no tangible sense of solidarity among women

2) There is no tangible feeling of fraternity among women

3) There is no tangible sense of “sisterhood” among women

Let me elaborate a little. Had there been solidarity, fraternity and sisterhood among women, we would surely be having as many women as men in decision-making bodies. Had women supported women, the legislative bodies and the Parliament would be having more number of women than what we have today. To drive home my point, let me ask you all a simple question: How is it that a beautiful woman cannot stand the sight of another beautiful woman? To drive home the point further, let me place a humble submission here: Whenever and wherever a girl/woman is molested, sexually harassed and raped, majority of the women with few exception, tend to point the accusing finger to the victim rather than supporting the victim. Of course these women, mostly with elitist background do not accuse the victim in the public domain. But they do so in their private domain of kitchen and drawing rooms. This leaves the victim in a severe state of mental trauma. This mental trauma, I believe, is more hurtful than the physical assault and therefore more detrimental to the women’s cause.

What is to be done then? Well, as I said earlier, I am not an expert, nor am I an authority to offer solutions. Far from it. But permit me to indulge in some loud thinking. First and foremost, women should support women. Secondly, women should stand for women. Thirdly and more importantly women should empathies women. Once this is done, women will automatically transform themselves from a “Force in itself” to a “Force for itself”. If and when women become a “Force for itself”, things will change for better. And things are changing before our own eyes. Just a couple of days back, a girl Mariam Johra, has broken the 135 years old barrier of “Islamic Fatwa” in Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) by becoming the first elected member of student cabinet. This was possible because she was able to bring a sense of solidarity, feeling of fraternity and sisterhood among her compatriots.

Indeed we need to change ourselves. Women need to change their orientation, outlook towards women. After all, as Gandhi said “YOU MUST BE THE CHANGE YOU WISH TO SEE IN THE WORLD”

This SAM workshop for Capacity Building of women Managers in Higher Education, I am sure, is a right step in the right direction at the right time to sensitize, to motivate women in order to bring the much needed sense of solidarity, fraternity and sisterhood among themselves.

Women have nothing to lose but their traditional stereotype image of being dependent, submissive, passive, docile and irrational. A sense of solidarity, feeling of fraternity and sisterhood will mark the beginning of an end. The end of male domination. With this will emerge a new world order where men and women, women and men will walk together, side by side, hand in hand. And not one following the other. As I share my thoughts with you I cannot but recall those moving lines of Anasuya Sengupta which moved no less a person than Hillary Clinton so much so that she used them in her Memoir “Living History”.

Too many women

In too many countries

Speak the same language

Of Silence

*The article is an edited version of Dr Kshetri’s speech delivered as Resource Person on 22nd January 2011, the 3rd day Open Session of UGC’s Sensitivity, Awareness and Motivation (SAM) workshop for Capacity Building of Women Managers in Higher Education organized by Imphal College in collaboration with Manipur University at the Conference Hall of Anthropology Department M.U.)

*The writer is Head, Department of Sociology, Nagaland University and can be contacted at rdkshetri@yahoo.co.in

(Courtesy: The Sangai Express)

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