News from Udwada News about Town

The First Neera Desai Memorial



The First Neera Desai Memorial Lecture was organised by the Research Centre for Women’s Studies, SNDT Women’s University, the Department of Post Graduate Studies and Research, SNDT Women’s University and the Department of Civics and Politics, University of Mumbai. The lecture was held in the Kalina campus of the Mumbai University on the 23rd of September 2010.

The programme began with Dr. Kanamma of the Dept of Civics and Politics inviting Prof. Susie Tharu , Prof. Veena Poonacha, Prof. Vibhuti Patel, Mr. Mihir Desai and Dr. Gita Chadha on the stage. A chair was reserved for the Vice Chancellor, Dr. Rajan Welukar.
This was followed by a welcome note from the Head, Dept of Civics and Politics, Prof. Jondhale.

Prof. Veena Poonacha, Director, RCWS, detailed the tremendous impact made by Prof. Neera Desai to the field of Women’s Studies. Prof. Poonacha recollected the contribution of Prof. Desai not only in setting up the RCWS, the first women’s studies centre in India but also to the setting up of the Centre for Rural Development at the RCWS. Prof. Veena Poonacha remembered Neera ben, known thus to people in women’s studies, to be a warm, gentle but firm human being with a great passion for social transformation.

Prof. Vibhuti Patel, Director of the PGSR introduced Prof. Susie Tharu to the audience.Prof. Patel said that Prof. Tharu has always been an inspirational scholar with a ‘special Susie touch’ to whatever she does. Prof. Patel also recollected Prof. Neera Desai and welcomed Ms. Mihir Desai, son of Dr. A.R.Desai and Dr. Neera Desai.

Following Prof. Patel’s address, Prof. Tharu delivered the First Neera Desai Memorial Lecture on ‘Once again: What is Literaure? Notes form Dalit Literary Movements in Kerala and Tamilnadu. Prof. Tharu argued that Dalit writing challenges the literary traditions and conventions of modern western literature. Illustrating he arguments with writings of major Dalit writers, Prof Tharu argued that dalit literary writing challenged conventions of both form and content. She also indicated that there is a need amongst feminists to address issues in Dalit writing which have been marginalized. She said that feminists have to move towards a greater self reflexivity.

The Hon Vice Chancellor of the Mumbai University, Prof. Rajan Welukar, in his Presidential Address remarked that a person of such eminence and stature as Prof. Tharu must be invited to talk to the students .

Dr. Gita Chadha of the RCWS proposed the formal vote of thanks.

September 2010: Dr. Susie Tharu gave a talk on What is Literature in the Dalit Literary Movement?: Notes from Tamil Nadu and Kerala.

The author’s notes that comprise the sequel to Sivakami’s widely discussed autobiographical novel Pazhayana Kazhidalam, 1988 (Trans. The Grip of Change, 2006; sequel included in this translation)straddle the boundaries between confessional writing, literary criticism and political commentary. Sivakami evolves this composite genre to reflect on the sorcery of realism when it comes to representing dalit worlds and dalits as political subjects. How have other dalit writers wrestled with official reality? What is the aesthetic and philosophical labour of dalit literature today? In an attempt to answer these questions, she began with a discussion of The Grip of Change , and moved on to discuss selections from C Ayyappan and S Joseph.  



Seminar / Conference



5 January 2011: A seminar entitled Phules and Women’s Question was jointly organized by Dr. Ambedkar College of Commerce and Economic and the Research Centre for Women’s Studies SNDT Women’s University. Sponsored by the University Grants Commission, New Delhi, this seminar aimed at exploring the continued relevance of Krantikari Savitribai Phule and Jotiba Phule’s work for gender equity. 

The programme began with a welcome address by Dr. S.R Kamble, Principal Dr. Ambedkar College for Commerce. It was followed by lecture by the Chief Guest Dr. Kranti Jejurkar, Chairperson Women’s Development Cell, University of Mumbai in which she pointed out to the revolutionary implications of Savitribai and Jyotiba Phule work for the upliftment to women. Subsequently, the Guest of Honour, Dr. Vibhuti Patel, Head, Department of Economics SNDT Women’s University discussed the contemporary gender issues and emphasised the need for continued struggles. In her inaugural address Dr. Veena Poonacha, Director, Research Centre for Women’s Studies, saw Women’s Studies in the University System as carrying forward the central mission of the 19th century social reformers, particularly Savitribai and Jyotiba Phule. Apart from seeking to spread education to the marginalized communities, they also sought to raise critical consciousness through education. Since Women’s Studies was introduced in the university system to create critical consciousness, it in effect remains a continuation of the early social reform agenda, particularly that of the Phules.

Dr. Jaswandi Wamburkar Department of History, SNDT Women’s University and Prof. Vandana Sonalkar Director, Tarabai Shinde Women’s Studies Centre, Dr. Babasaheb Marathwada University, Aurangabad presented two very important papers aimed at locating the contribution of the Phule’s to the 19th Century Social Reform Movement.

Dr. Wamurkar’s lecture was a critical analysis of the 19th century social reform movement and contextualizing the contribution of the Phules within this period of accelerated social change. Dr. Sonalkar’s paper provided an in-depth analysis of their contribution to women’s upliftment. The highlight of the morning session of the seminar was the release of a book entitled Phule’s and Women’s Question, compiled and edited by Lalitha Dhara. The book commemorates the work of Savitribai and Jyotiba Phule by carrying extracts of some of their writing as well as compiling some important articles on them.

The afternoon session chaired by Dr. Veena Poonacha, comprised a discussion on the papers presented by Dr. Wamburkar and Dr. Sonalkar. It was followed by an exquisite dance exposition on Tarabai Shinde’s fiery essay Stri Purush Tulana by Rahashri Shrike and her dance troupe and also a ballet Apli Savitri based on Savitribai Phule’s poems and letters to her husband Jyotiba by Jhelum Paranjape, Suhita Thatte and party.






27 August 2010: Visit by Ms. Pulkita Sood Acquisiton Librarian and Mr. Sheenu Mathew, Acquisiton Technician to acquire our books for the Library of Congress, American Centre, New Delhi Overseas Office.

15 September-26 November 2010: Mr. Steven Manson, Team Leader, Disablities Services, University of South Australia, Adelaide was an affiliated scholar at the RCWS. His affiliation was supported by Endeavour Foundation award of the Government of Australia, Department of Education, Employment and Workplace relationships. During his visit, he was able to establish preliminary research and student exchange contact with the Centre for Social Exclusion and Inclusive Polity, Department of Adult and Continuing Education, School of Social Work and Social Policy, and NGOs. He delivered a lecture at a seminar organized by the RCWS on 19 October 2010 on Including Disadvantaged Students in Australia.

25 January 2010: Visit by Dr. Deepa Rao, University of South Australia, Adelaide to discuss the possibilities of research collaborations with the RCWS.


AWA Corner



First Anniversary Function

Avabai Women’s Archives completed one year in September 2010. The First Anniversary Function was held at the Research Centre for Women’s Studies on the 24th of September.  

The function was well attended by friends and well wishers at the University and in the women’s movement.

Director, Dr. Veena Poonacha welcomed the guests and outlined the vision for AWA. Dr. Poonacha reiterated that AWA aims at making visible the contributions of individual women and women’s organizations. She articulated the need to document the lives of women in the generation of Avabai Wadia. She suggested that Avabai Wadia’s memoirs would provide an adequate road map for this documentation. Dr. Poonacha reaffirmed AWA’s commitment to research and excellence.

Dr. Gita Chadha, Associate Project Director at AWA presented an informal Annual Report to the audience. Dr. Chadha said that the past year had been a rewarding and successful one. She indicated that AWA had grown in its infrastructure and in articulating policies on acquisition and access. She reported that AWA had taken a two- fold direction in its project. One, AWA defined its first thrust area as Health and Medicine and two, the area of self archiving the RCWS. She also said that given the support of the University and the Working Group, the Steering Committee AWA would find its niche place in the world of feminist archives.

Dolly Thakore, the well known theater personality, read out scripted excerpts of Avabai Wadia’s memoirs The Light is Ours - Memoirs and Movements published by the International Planned Parenthood Federation. In her Own Voice: Avabai Wadia brings alive the early years of Avabai’s life.  

AWA’s Senior Scholars Fellowships - 2010, in the area of Health and Medicine, were awarded to Geeta Seshu, Kamala Ganesh and Rohini Sahni. Their work was presented to the audience. Each presentation highlighted the importance of the material for a feminist archive and even suggested possible directions for research in the area. These presentations were complemented by displays of the material. (See Collections)

The RCWS Newsletter of the last 36 years has been produced as a DVD which was released by Prof. Susie Tharu, the Chief Guest for the occasion. The RCWs Posters Collection, also produced as a DVD, was released by Dolly Thakore.

Prof. Susie Tharu then addressed the audience with a brilliant talk on Medicine and Governments-Histories in the present. Prof. Tharu argued that present day discourse on health and medicine needs to look for fresh directions to assess the changes happening in the sector due to the corporatization of the sector and the subsequent impact on public health. Prof. Tharu suggested that the medical practioner at the grassroots, managing the impact of state and corporate processes needs to be carefully examined in order to understand how the two trends are intersecting.

The morning ended with a vote of thanks.


News from Udwada



A Brief Report on the Accounts Workshop

The importance of the Accounts Training Workshop can be assessed from the point that the CRD has organized 75 SHG groups in 2009-10. Out of this total number 50 groups are organized under the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) and the rest are formed through the CRD’s efforts since the women were eager to be covered by the programme. Each group comprising 10 to 15 women save an average of Rs. 50 per month. All the SHGs formed under the NABARD programme have established bank linkages and these are certified by the banks. Periodically the CRD provides them training in leadership and awareness on women’s social, economic and political empowerment. It is a matter of pride that the total bank credit availed by women since the inception of the SHG movement in 2007, has been Rs. 44, 19,800. Apart from taking loans to meet the health and educational needs of their families, many women have taken loans to build/repair their houses and to start small businesses. Some women have taken loans to buy auto-rickshaws or sound systems and shamianas, through which they have been able to provide occupation for their unemployed husbands.

Accounts and Book Keeping Training

 Organized with funds from Giants Group of Chowpatty on 22 July 2010, at Udwada, the programme was held in Rathod Plaza hall located near the railway station. 21 women leaders representing different SHG groups attended the programme. The objective of the training workshop was to enable leaders to calculate the monthly savings and the interest earned through internal lending as well as the interest paid on bank loans. The workshop was also organized to teach the women to maintain account books systematically. The two accountants Shraddha Shah and Namrata Patel from the Research Centre for Women’s Studies provided the training. They took the opportunity to verify the accounts books of the groups and to explain the correct procedure of maintaining records. In order to present precise and clear information, Shraddha Shah and Namrata Patel showed the calculations on the black board. The participants voiced their doubts and sought clarification of their doubts. The participants wanted to know what measures they could take to prevent default on loans. After discussion they decided that they should have two women stand guarantee on each loan given by the group to any of their members. Further to take a written undertaking from the borrower. The participants, the field level workers and the local coordinator, Ranjan Desai found the training very useful as they could resolve several of their doubts. The participants said that similar such programmes should be conducted in the future. It may be noted here that the participants from the interior villages had come to attend the training programme despite heavy rains and those who were unable to come were disappointed.

Skill Development Training Conducted at the Centre for Rural Development (CRD), Udwada

We are happy to report on the completion of computer literacy and tailoring training programme under the Skill Development Initiative of the National Bank for Agricultural and Rural Development at Udwada, from 1 December to 15 January 2011. Aimed at up-scaling the vocational competency of women, the beneficiaries of the training programmes were largely women from the tribal communities. 55 women benefited from this programme.

7 October 2010: Partners for Law in Development, New Delhi jointly with Research Centre for Women’s Studies, Akshara and Awaz e Niswan organized a discussion on Revisiting Women’s Rights and the Family. The programme organized at the Juhu Campus of the SNDT University, aimed at reinvigorating reflections and debates on women’s rights in the family. It also aimed at introducing a new resource book on Rights in Intimate Relationships: Towards an Inclusive and Just Framework of Women’s Rights and Family. Madhu Mehra from Partners for Law in Development moderated the discussions.


News about Town



30 August 2010: a workshop entitled College Women’s Development Cells: Concerns, Challenges and Course Ahead was jointly organized by St. Xavier’s College, and Akshara, a Women’s Resource Centre. Aimed at sensitizing college teachers on sexual harassment within educational institutions, it sought enable the participants to plan the development of the Women’s Development Cells (WDCs) in each college. It also sought to introduce the participants to the Stree Net online course on sexual harassment developed by Akshara. The twin purpose of the course was to systematically train the teachers on dealing with incidents of sexual harassment and also enable them to acquire e-learning skills. The guest speakers were: Dr. Veena Poonacha, Director, Research Centre for Women’s Studies, SNDT Women’s University, Dr. Kranti Jejukar, Chairperson, Mumbai University Women’s Development Cell. The session began with an introduction of the Supreme Court Guidelines on Sexual Harassment as delineated in the Vishaka vs. The State of Rajasthan judgment. Dr. Veena Poonacha said that sexual harassment was one aspect of violence against women in patriarchal societies. Such crimes ranging from domestic violence to molestation and rape were crimes of power and were aimed at reinforcing women’s subordination in society. It had nothing to do with sexual attraction between the sexes. Dr. Kranti Jejurkar, discussed the actions taken by the Mumbai University WDC in dealing with cases of sexual harassment and added that most of the college managements were not serious about dealing with such offenses. They did not take the circulars sent by the WDC and did not prominently display such circulars. Dr. Nandita Gandhi, Joint- Director, Akshara, subsequently introduced the three-week online course on Sexual Harassment and the WDCs for the college lecturers and members of the WDCs. She said that the course is aimed at helping the participants to recognize sexual harassment when it happens and to understand the correct procedures of dealing with such offenses. An innovative aspect of this online course scheduled from 9-30 October 2010 is that it will also enable networking and sharing of experiences. As the course coordinator, Akshara would provide both content related and IT support.

3 September 2010: A seminar on Kashmir at the Crossroad: the Way Forward was organized by Peace Mumbai, at the Press Club, Mumbai Marathi Sangh, Mumbai to discuss the current escalation of violence in Kashmir. The speakers were Sajjad Lone, Chairperson of People’s Conference and Bashir Manzer, Editor, Kashmir Images. Chaired by Dr. Ritu Diwan, Professor, Department of Economics, University of Mumbai, the session focused on the brutal repression of the common people by the Army and the CRPF. The current phase of resistance by the people was a non violent struggle against the draconian suspension of civil rights in the valley spearheaded by children and young people. This legitimate cry of the people for self determination and justice was brutally suppressed by the Armed Forces and the CRPF. The crisis required a political solution rather than violent repression. The discussions called for the withdrawal of the armed forces and for the restoration of democratic institutions in Kashmir. Further, the peace process could only when the legitimate aspirations of the people were addressed and each case of human rights violation was investigated and punished.

4 October 2010: A public lecture by Prof. Prabhat Patnaik, Vice Chairman of Kerala State Planning Board was organized by the Kerala People’s Education Society at Vanamali Hall as part of its Golden Jubilee Celebrations. Speaking on Changing Policy towards Higher Education in the Era of Globalization he said that the most important aim of higher education was the development of critical consciousness and social sensitivity. The current trend in higher education in India was increasingly geared towards meeting the requirements of the global market. This commodification of education destroys the intellectual and social nature of higher education and gets disassociated with the struggles of the people. The knowledge base communicated in the system of higher education in a country should be rooted in the socio-cultural ethos of the country. It cannot remain a pale shadow of knowledge systems communicated in another country. Prof. Patnaik was critical of the current move by the Government to set up “world class” universities in India on the lines of Oxford or Cambridge by importing foreign professors to teach in them. The consequence of such a measure would inevitably mean the alienation of young people from their roots and would fail to contribute to nation building. It would be a reinvention of the colonial education system of the 19th and early 20th centuries that were challenged by the leaders of the freedom movement. The training provided in this commercialized model of higher education would develop skilled labour to fit into the global market and would not contribute to nation-building requirements of the country. He was also critical of the current trend in privatization of higher education which would create newer systems of social stratification based on the power to purchase education. This would in effect negate merit based access to higher education.