The second day of the Annual International Gender Conference, second edition, hosted by Symbiosis School for Liberal Arts in collaboration with DePaul University was held on 8th February.
TEESSIDE AND SSLA FILM SCREENING
Day two began with the screening of Women of India and Forward; films showcasing the progress of women in Maharashtra. The project was a result of a collaborative effort between the Symbiosis School for Liberal Arts, Pune, and Teeside University, UK. A team consisting of students from both universities completed it through the course of a 4-week road trip across the state. The notion of shared empowerment was highlighted through this film with emphasis on the vast difference in the experience of each woman, drawing from examples such as Lijjat Papad, the Bikerni and the first all female Aadhar Rescue Force Team (ARFT). The screening was followed by a panel discussion with Ms. Shyama Dutta (Symbiosis School for Liberal Arts), Dr. Simon Lynch (Teeside University), who were the producers of the film and Mr. Prasad Sankpal (District Disaster Management officer, District Magistrate Office, Kolhapur), Shubhangi Gharale (ARF), and Pavitra Dangi(ARFT).
Post the screening, a separate session was dedicated to presenting research conducted by individuals from SSLA and other universities. The presentations were broadly categorised into three sessions; ‘Gender in Literature and Cinema’, chaired by Professor Ananya Parikh, ‘Gender and Work in Contemporary India’, chaired by Professor Vaidyanath Gundlupet, and ‘Gender in Contemporary India: Power, Policy, Norms and Practices’ chaired by Professor Nikhil Narkar. Each session saw overwhelming student presence and participation.
Under the category of Gender in Literature and Cinema, Upasana Rangarajan presented on ‘Reclaiming the legacy of Andal’, an ideal woman figure in Tamil culture. This was followed by Divyali Mehrotra’s examination of women characters in R. K. Narayan’s ‘The Guide’. The last presenter in this category, Rutvi Mehta, analysed the Bollywood icon Rekha via Susan Hayward's theory of 'stardom' as a construct and as a deviant.
The category of Gender and Work was initiated with the presentation of a collaborative project by three fourth-year students, Atmadeep Sengupta, Malavika Rangarajan and Aditi Natarajan, exploring the intersection of the public and private lives of female part-time domestic workers in Viman Nagar, Pune. The following presentation was made by Shreya Hiwale, and it discussed the working conditions of female sanitation workers in Viman Nagar. Oishani Banerjee’s presentation focused on the Anganwadi workers and the caregiving work that they do and how they are treated. Professor Sonia Sathe, SSLA, discussed the impact of family support on education and career choices of women, and Professor Ananya Dutta, SSLA, presented on fighting gender bias in newsrooms and on the field.
The category of presentation, Gender in Contemporary India, began with Aarti Balaji who spoke about menstrual taboo, by describing the practice of Theetu. The next presenter was Pratyaksha Prakash who submitted their seminar paper on understanding the impact of migration on women through the ‘Chhath’ festival. Kavya Ranjith, presented their autoethnography that tracked their conflict with gender and self-identity from their childhood to present. The next presenter, Ishika Saxena, presented ‘A feminist Critique of Distributive Practises in India’ applying Nancy Fraiser’s feminist critique on policymaking. The last presenter for the category, Professor Richa Minocha spoke on how policymakers must take into account the beneficiaries of each scheme before enacting it.
The last track titled ‘Power, Rights and Policy: Intersection with Gender’ began with The Queer Qrew performing an audience inclusive activity. Dr. Anita Patankar, Director, SSLA, addressed the audience and expressed her pride in how far the Queer Qrew had come so as to become a part of the discussion and actually breaking grounds. The activity involved creating a visual representation of interlinking identities by having volunteers link multiple categories that they personally identified with, using yarn. The group of volunteers had students and speakers of different backgrounds come together. Highlighting the importance of intersectionality, the founder of the Queer Qrew proudly said, “We are all made of mixtures of multiples. Our differences unite us.”
The third track, following on the themes established by the Queer Qrew, aimed to highlight the importance of adopting an intersectional approach to identifying complex contexts and formulating strategies to best meet needs. The Queer Qrew expressed their appreciation towards the college for providing them with a safe space to openly talk about gender and identity, thereby helping them escape the exhausting life of hiding and fighting homophobia. The second speaker, Ms. Sarang Punekar, a gender activist, gave a touching talk about her life and how she feels that her being on such a podium could help young minds navigate policies that could then help her live a better life. The third speaker, Gayatri Kotbagi, gave an engaging talk on her job as a clinical psychologist and stressed on the fact that gender prejudices can be the reason for mental health issues. The final speaker of the panel Dr. Noam Ostrander emphasised that we must focus on doing what must be done and that the onus of starting and starting now is on oneself.
The conference came to a close with the performances by the student run clubs of SSLA, Bandemonium, The Natak Society, It Could Be Verse, and The Film Club, which brought to light that spaces do not exist in a vacuum, they are instead always governed by the laws of gender.