Seminar on ‘Challenges to Women’s Development, Empowerment and Liberation in Contemporary India’

The Women’s Development Cell of Ghanshyamdas Saraf College had organized a State Level Seminar in association with Maharashtra State Commission for Women, and University of Mumbai Women’s Development Cell, on ‘Challenges to Women’s Development, Empowerment and Liberation in Contemporary India’ at Bajaj Hall, Malad (West), from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm on Wednesday, July 31, 2019.

The seminar started with the lamp lighting ceremony and invocation, followed by felicitation of the guests. It was shortly followed by a welcome address by Principal, CA Dr. Jayant Apte, who expressed the need for forums for women in the current times as the first step towards women empowerment. The tone of the seminar was set by the Convener of Women’s Development Cell of the College, Dr. Shagun Srivastava who highlighted the objectives of the Cell, and the various activities conducted to spread awareness about issues related to gender.

Prof. Charmie Dalal, Member, Women’s Development Cell of the College provided the audience with a brief introduction of the guests, highlighting their respective areas of expertise. Dr. Gita Chadha, Chairperson of the University of Mumbai Women’s Development Cell, presided as the Chief Guest and the Keynote Speaker. Dr. Chadha who is an academician, researcher, and a writer herself, addressed the audience on ‘Gender and Patriarchy’, focusing on gender stereotypes created and reinforced by the society and media. The talk started with an overview of gender discrimination, the way it is perpetrated in both domestic, as well as public spheres. She elucidated the manner in which psychological constructs of masculinity and femininity pose a hindrance to women empowerment, and one’s need to break free from these.She also highlighted the need to deconstruct gender-restrictive roles that subvert domestic work as economically unproductive.Through her address, Dr. Chadha also brought to the notice, the perception of women as mere objects, and a need to deconstruct the same. Dr. Chadha addressed the role of educational institutions, women’s forums, politics, and media as primary in this regard.The address concluded with a message of the need for women to stand up against their exploitation, solidarity between women regardless of their socio-cultural and economic stature, and an active participation of men in feminist movements against the various forms of violence and exploitation.

Smt. Vijaya Rahatkar, Chairperson of Maharashtra State Commission for Women expressed her concern over the rising need to tackle various issues related to women, the role of the Commission, and the many challenges that lie before the government, in a brief audio-visual message.

It was followed by a panel discussion on ‘Violence Against Women: Problems and Solutions’ by the members that included Dr. Gita Chadha, Chairperson, University Women Development Cell, Mrs. Mangala Marathe, Secretary, Swadhar, (NGO at Goregaon West, Mumbai), Mrs. Pooja KuteLawyer and Activist, and Mrs. ArunaJogalekar,Artist, Director, Writer, and Producer, which was corresponded by Dr. Lipi Mukherjee, Chief-Coordinator, Self-finance Department of the College.The discussion opened with identifying different forms of violence, and the way it can be traced to the legitimization of violent behaviours that are encoded since childhood.

Dr. Chadha expressed her views on the ways in which systems of power like patriarchy initiate violence against women. She highlighted on the women becoming doubly susceptible to violence due to this, both in the domestic as well as the public domain. Mrs. Kute added the role of judiciary in tackling the concern of violence against women. Sheelaborated on the significance of having a supportive legal system, and the awareness of the same by the women to assert their rights. She also discussed in detail the ‘Manodhairya Scheme’, that provides psychological and economic relief to the survivors of sexual assault and acid attacks. Mrs. Kute emphasized the role of law and order, and society together in making these legal schemes accessible to women.Mrs. Marathe highlighted the role of NGOs as a support system to the survivors of violence, and their families by aiding in legal and medical correspondence. She emphasized the contribution of family, educational institutions, workplaces, and women’s forums, as fundamental in curbing violence against women.Mrs. Jogalekar highlighted the role of media- newspaper, social media, and art that reinforce both subtle and overt forms of violence against women. She emphasized on the portrayal of women in media, and the way it operates as a result of culture to create a collective, stereotypical identity.

The discussion was also received enthusiastically by the audience which concluded with questions answered on honour killings, cyber-crime, workplace harassment, role of self-defence workshops, helplines, and counsellors while tackling the same, and an agreement of the need for a free interaction, and sensitization of the society regarding gender-based violence. The discussion was concluded by emphasizing the significance of Internal Committees to be approachable to the women, and to be updated with the knowledge of various laws and legal schemes.

The second part of the seminar comprised of paper presentations by academicians, professionals, and research scholars on the related themes. Prof. Suresh Santani, G. J. Advani Law College, highlighted on the disparity in male-female ratio of the Indian Judiciary, with a focus on gender prejudice in ‘Women in the Indian Judiciary: Need of the Time’. Prof. Gopal Mantri, SVKM, Mithibai College spoke on ‘Property Rights of Women’, the inheritance laws that allow women authority over their property. Prof. Megha Yadav, MPVC College highlighted on the various social challenges that hinder their work, in her paper, ‘Travelling Challenges of Women’. Dr. Meghna Basu, Ms. Fizza Khan, Ms. Vishwa, Ms. Priya, and Ms. Saara Ansari, R. D. National College presented their study of the data collected on ‘Work Stress’ and ‘Impact of Work Life Balance’.Ms. Monisha Bohra, Lions College presented a paper on ‘Women in Employment’ with a focus on workplace harassment. Prof. Rohini Fadte, K.J. Somaiya College highlighting the objectification of women by studying their graphic representation on tourist brochures, in ‘Gender, Media, and Tourist Gaze’. Prof. Pankaj Kataria emphasized on the role of Corporate Social Responsibilities in women empowerment, with a focus on the financial independence of rural women. Ms. VanshikaMithani and Ms. Priya Ghiya, Jai Hind College presented a paper on ‘Female Foeticide and Gender Based Violence’ highlighting misogyny and a sense of power as a primary cause of violence against women. Prof. Samhita Sengupta. KES Shroff College, spoke on the correlation between gender awareness and environmental movements in ‘Women in Environmental Protection: The New Era of Women Empowerment’. Prof. Ashwini and Prof. Chitra, Vidyalankar Institute presented a paper on ‘A Study of Organizing Women for Change’. Ms. Dhwani Patel, Mr. Shahid Khan, and Ms. Fiza Qureshi, Vivek College emphasized the role of women activists in the fields of education, social service, and women empowerment through their paper, ‘Trials and Trivia of Women’s Life’. The paper presentation session was concluded by a discussion on the various themes of the papers by Mrs. Mangala Marathe and Prof. Shripad Joshi, who chaired the session.

The Valedictory was conducted by Prof. Mamta Chhajer, who thanked all the paper presenters for their enthusiastic participation in the Seminar.

The Vote of Thanks was proposed by Vice Principal Prof. Gopal Sonar, who extended his appreciation to the participants and the paper presenters, and encouraged them for continued hard work. Prof. Sonar also expressed his gratitude to the Management, Academic, Administrative, and Technical Staff, and Student Volunteers for their support. The Seminar concluded with the distribution of certificates and Seminar proceedings to the paper presenters by Mrs. Mangala Marathe and Prof. Sonar. Dr. Shagun Srivastava, Convener of the Women Development Cell of the College, also expressed her immense gratitude to the Committee for their support and hard work.