International Gender Conference
On the February 28, a book reading session and movie screen was hosted at SSLA as a
prelude to the International Gender Conference.
The book reading session began with Prof. Anita Patankar (Director, SSLA) sharing her
insight on the event. The first book of the day was A Place to Call Home by Dr Ramya
Ramanath (Professor, DePaul University, Chicago, USA) that discussed the rehabilitation
program of the slum-dwellers evicted from the Sanjay Gandhi National Park area to
Sangharsh Nagar, focusing especially on women.
Low Wages in High Tech by Kiran Mirchandani, Sanjukta Mukherjee, and Shruti Tambe, was
the next book at the reading session. Mukherjee of DePaul University and Tambe of
Savitribai Phule Pune University briefed the audience about their research, which covered the
experiences of workers in high-tech cities, female workers specifically, with a close look at
Pune city. The book reading session concluded with a question and answer round where Dr.
Ramanath, Prof. Mukherjee and Prof. Tambe earnestly answer the questions of the students
The last programme of the pre-conference was a screening hosted by Prof. Gayatri
Chatterjee, at SSLA, of the movie Danzon directed by Maria Novaro. The Mexican film tells
the story of Julia a single mother who works as a phone operator in Mexico City. She sets off
on a journey to Veracruz in search of her Danzon partner, Carmelo, who disappears without a
trace but through journey turns out to be one of self-discovery for Julia. The reading sessions
and movie screen created the perfect atmosphere for the commencement of the International
Gender Conference taking place on March 1 and 2.
Workshop #1: Storytelling as a method to empower women and girls
Dr Michele Morano, from DePaul University, specialises in professional storytelling and
opened the International Gender Conference 2019 with a workshop on empowering women
and girls through the medium of storytelling. Her aim was to emphasise the importance of
bridging the gap in communication through revisiting the stories imagined by the
participants, and she encouraged them to connect and understand the situation from
perspectives other than their own. Dr. Morano has distributed free copies of her work (in
collaboration with her students and colleagues), of which they have already sold 50,000 units.
Track #2: Women and Healthcare
The second track of IGC 2019 focused on elucidating the issues which negatively affect the
mental, physical and emotional health of women and girls.
The panel was chaired by Dr. Suzanne Carlberg-Racich (DePaul University), Sneha
Khandekar (Gender Diversity and Inclusion Consultant), Ms. Meghana Marathe and her
associates, Madames Seema Tel and Sushila Jaiswal (Forbes Marshall) and Dr Maria Ferrera
Throughout the session, various points of contention were discussed; concerning violence,
the stigma of addiction and the underlying historical trauma faced by the female populace in
the socio-political constructs. All were described with the aid of thorough presentations and
successful project experiments.
The Chair opened the floor to questions and discussed the method of bridging the gap
between health facilities and the people, with the audience.
The first day of the conference ended on a positive note with independent presentations
discussing the gravity of issues like rape culture, the existence of misogyny in the very roots
of our religious law and in the positions of political power, personal ethnographies dealing
with the dichotomy in men’s and women’s perceived roles in the society, and contemporary
workplace sexism. These independent presentations were carried forth by various students
(Oishika Neogi, SSLA and Janvi Mahnot, SSLA), faculty (Dr Shirin Abbas, Symbiosis
Center for Media and Communication; Dr Parimala Veluvalli, Symbiosis Centre for
Management Studies) and alumni (Isha Mathur, SSLA and Ananya Gouthi, SSLA) all
representing Symbiosis International University as one.
Workshop #2: Creating a women support workplace
Swarna Lekha Sishta, VP HR of Altruista Health, conducted the second workshop of the
International Gender Conference on creating a supportive workplace for women. The
interactive workshop with students, faculty, and guests looked at questions regarding the
challenges women face in the workplace that limit them to certain roles and gathered
suggestions to solve these issues. Gender quotas, pronouns used in policies, technologies for
gender inclusivity, gender sensitisation workshops and many more possible rectifications
were suggested and conversed about. The workshop ended with Swarna Lekha Sishta being
felicitated by Prof. Anita Patankar.
Track #4: Conversations that matter
Conversations That Matter was the fourth track held on day two of the International Gender
Conference 2019. Mr. Saharsh David (CSR Head, Sandvik), Ms. Vandana Chavan (Member
of the Rajya Sabha), Dr. Rajani Gupte (Vice Chancellor of SIU) and Ms. Nandita Baruah
(Country Representative of Asia Foundation) were the speakers at the event. Through the
course of the session the speakers shared their personal journeys, the struggles they had faced
and the observations drawn by them. Each speaker highlighted the oppressive nature of the
inherent patriarchy in our society and how we have grown oblivious to it.
The conversation was then opened to the audience through a series of questions and answers.
Several questions were raised; regarding how to sensitise people about the intricate yet
complicated relationship between religion and women, the best way to educate the populace
about this, the need to be sensitised to gendered stereotypes and how we must work to
challenge these norms.
Prof. Anita Patankar ended the session by delivering the vote of thanks, and a very important
point: this International Gender Conference 2019 should be a sign that the discourse about
gender is getting on the road, and several more conversations will follow, which must be
carried out with everyone - men, women, and children alike.