New Delhi: International Women's Day was celebrated at the Indira Gandhi National Open University's (IGNOU) Convention Centre with eminent women writers in the discussion panel such as Dr. Lakshmi Kanan, a renowned Tamil poet and fiction writer, Maitreyi Pushpa, a writer who started feminist discourse in Hindi literature and Rekha Awasthi, a literary critic in Hindi literature, presided over by the IGNOU Vice Chancellor, Professor V.N. Rajasekharan Pillai.
In his presidential address, Professor Pillai said, "There is a crying need for education at all levels for women, especially in the fields of skill development, science and technology and small scale industries. There are schemes in the government in these areas, but implementation lags behind. IGNOU has the requisite programmes for facilitating these activities. It can also promote awareness about women's rights, and take it to the grassroots."
Speaking on her women characters, Maitreyi Pushpa said, "Women express their feelings and articulate their rights through folk songs. She talks about her right to be born, to happiness, joy and sexuality. However, men do not hear these songs. How will the woman’s voice be heard? The traditions and conventions, which have been given to us as legacy, favour patriarchal society. My heroine in 'Chaak' recognizes this fact very well and wants to take her own decisions, like all normal women."
She further added that male writers have been writing about the women that they 'want'. Whereas, women writers write from experience. This makes women's writing very powerful.
Speaking at the discussion, Dr. Kanan commented, "Patriarchy is a culture we have grown up with. It can't be thrown away in a day. We can't live without what men do for us. If women want to exorcise patriarchy, they have to join, but not become female chauvinists in the process. In fact the women who interest me are those who are able to negotiate spaces and work around limited choices."
Talking about how women’s empowerment is not possible without poverty alleviation, Rekha Awasthi said, "Gender studies has to be linked to the class society, and economic policy of the country has to be addressed for the empowerment of women. Patriarchy is a class approach. Women have been given many faces, those of Kaikeyi, Manthra… We appreciate Meerabai and Radha, but no father or brother wants her in his home."
"School of Gender and Development Studies (SOGDS) and School of Agriculture, IGNOU are collaborating together to start a Diploma/ PG Certificate in Gender, Agriculture and Sustainability. There are also plans to launch a programme in Gender and Law, jointly by SOGDS and the School of Law," announced Prof Savita Singh, Director, SOGDS.
She added, "We are celebrating women's day proclaiming that we respect people who respect us. We value equality and also appreciate the government's initiative for tabling of the Women's Reservation Bill, which is a Bill about equality and not just women's reservation."