A question for all of you: What do you want to hear about?

So, after my first two blogs on the ‘journey’, which isn’t my journey alone but those of many others, so parts of if are shared, other lived alone, but told here from my perspective and voice. I heard back from many friends that they were glad that I was finally writing again and reflecting on some of the issues that have challenged me in the past and ones that continue to challenge me today.

There is a dear friend of mine, who I have worked with, ranted with, cried and laughed with for a few years now. And no we have still actually never met in person, she is one of my sisters form another mother, Robyn Baron. I reached out to her today and asked her if she wanted to write a few blogs together since some of the things I have been wanting to write about, the two of us have spent many a day/night on long skype calls across the globe with our pots of coffee ranting about. So yes, you shall be hearing from the ‘gender mosters’ ( Robyn and Jasveen) soon!

I was sharing with her some of the questions/topics I have had in my mind for a while to write about and we decided what could be more feminist way than leaving the choice with you to tell us what you want to hear about next. (We are exploring finding a site that will allow us to have a collective/shared space where friends can post too- and we can really explore topics as a feminist community that has worked on this issues individually and collectively-ideas on that welcome too!)

The running list of topics/themes that I have right now is ( a lot of them interconnected):

  1. Feminist dilemma’s in humanitarian work – humanitarian structure and the power relations inherent in the system and its processes-dynamics and how humanitarian feminists engage with it
  2. Women divided/movement divided- What brings us together and what tears us apart. Politics and the women’s movement
  3. Working within and outside of systems and structures- challenges and compromises
  4. Where is the third wave feminism? Or are there waves anymore
  5. Why we still need Feminism?
  6. Why aren’t feminists calling themselves feminists anymore?
  7. As a Humanitarian community we had to move to systems- all the ism’ like professionalism,  – but as a result we depoliticized.
  8. Taking over the feminist language by the mainstreaming language – diluting the intent and impact
  9.  Reclaiming our language
  10.  How do we understand ‘political’?
  11. Tyranny of the humanitarian idea- everything we do is saving lives? using guilt so we don’t enagage with things that we need to-  insidious ways of  organisational cultures- self-sacrificing- patriarchal culture we all exist in.To quote Robyn and I agree with this statement completly .  We shouldn’t be afraid to call it like it is because the only change that can happen is one that happens when we call it.
  12. Living by/conforming to dictates of humanitarian work and feminist work: Contradictions?
  13. The feminists of today- across borders, race, class, sectors, -because the personal is still political!#
  14. Why hearing the word mainstreaming makes me cringe and want to crawl up /scream at the same time!
  15.  My feminist compass
  16. Feminism and faith- belief in both and the inherent contradictions or not!
  17. Feminist relationships- sisterhood.
  18. How professionalization of humanitarian work has taken a lot of the politics out of it- strands that were political has been depoliticised- feminism

 

Let me know what of the above interests you the most, and/or feel free to add more topics.

 

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Reclaiming my history: A Preamble

So, I left off last time with the start of the journey but where I want to/need to start now is a few miles down that road. This part of my life was the part that was defined by the ‘arrogance of youth’, my youth.

 

Its the part that has been crying out to be said out loud to the extent where I feel that I am beginning to glimpse what Rilke referred to in his ‘Letters to a Young Poet’ and when Maya Angelo said ‘There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you’. It is a burden, which if I do not let go off, then movement forward will not be true. That is not to say that I was ever silent, those of who know me, know that I speak my mind and don’t hold back at times with unintended results!

 

That part of me comes from this phase in my life, it comes from never letting a voice go unheard. It comes from a place of a 20 year old girl struggling to find a place for herself in one of the strongest women’s movements of her time in her country and a place for herself within the Criminal Justice System that still epitomized all the cliches you can think of. ‘I have an opinion that will be heard’, my age and my gender go against me but I will not let that be a hindrance to the path I have undertaken. Such self-righteousness and arrogance had to come to a head at some point!

 

So this is my truth and I reclaim the arrogant youth that I was, it was that youth that has led me to be where I am now.  It is that part of the journey that allows to be unafraid of challenges/or being challenged- because only when you engage with criticism and challenge with an open mind do you grow.

 

This is what I needed to say as a preamble before talking about some of the amazing work I got be a part of from 2000-2008 and to help shape and influence some of the thinking and creativity with which the Rajasthan women’s movement engaged on issues of violence against women. A movement that has been and remains to this day an inspiration, that made me want to be a part of it while I was still a student. The landmark judgements and legislation’s that this state alone had to its name, meant I wanted to be there, I wanted to know what was so special about this group or people and organisations, how had they achieved so much that I got to read about their work in our Gender and law class.

 

Its my preamble to what helped me set up and run the first Mahila Salah evam Suraksha Kendra (MSSK- A holistic redressal centre for women facing violence) along with an amazing and inspiring group of women. The name MSSK was the only concession I made to the concept and vision I had in mind! A collaboration between 9 ( later 12) women’s organisations and the State Police.

 

To be continued…

 

A journey that started 15 years ago and continues

The First of many to come- one a week is what  I am aiming for

The recent work around EVAW, focus on sexual violence in conflict #time to act, the incidents of rape and violence at home in India, my work on gender equality and GBV within our humanitarian work has brought me a point where I want to reflect on the journey so far. There is  a burning need to document some of the my experiences, growth, learning over the years . I am not sure what the end goal/product would be. But this is where I start with the hope that by the end it might be a way to put the last 15 years in perspective and maybe a road map for the next 15! These are my ramblings for now, a journal documenting the past one day at a time, one change at a time, one compromise with reality and practicality at a time!

In 1999 I started on a journey while I was in my second year of my Masters degree at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, a journey that will never end for me. As part of our field work placement, I elected to work at the Special cell for women and children. The Special cell for women and children[1] was started in the year in 1984 as a TISS project with the Mumbai Police to work with survivors of violence.  I had joined the MA in Social work with the belief that I wanted to work with children, but that year changed the focus of my work and changed me. It forced me to think about myself, my beliefs, the family, community and society I was a part of. The only marathi word that has stayed with me since is ‘ghatasphod[2]’, it is a word that even when I hear it now, I can see a mental image of explosion within the household. Of parents fighting, children terrified, scared and cringing, of violence in the relationships which are meant to be the safest and most intimate.

That time, that place, the people there, made me explore in both a personal and professional way what gender equality was, deconstruct it , break it into pieces and look at through the lenses of my own life over the 20 years that had preceded that time. It made me dig deep within and without to understand violence again women and children, relationships, family.

What kind of father would rape his 5 year old daughter and say ‘mera beej hai, me phal nahi phele khauga to kaun?’ [3].  To try and understand how a woman who was beaten black and blue and could hardly move without pain will still ask us to help her go back to the person who had inflicted that violence on her. I studied the theories that went to explain these personal stories- the cycle of violence, battered woman syndrome, and others.Some of my first reading were, Against Our Will: men, Women and Rape by Susan Brownmiller, Our bodies Our selves, the feminine mystique, Battered women by Walker, In a different voice, the beauty myth and numerous other books that took me through a world of feminist history, theory, the struggles and milestones in end violence against women. I devoured books by Simone de Beauvoir, Maya Angelou, S. Brownmiller and numerous others.

I lived mostly in my head for those two years, the love lives of my friends, the drama of college escaped me, the memories that my friends have from that time are different from my memories. I don’t have a clue who was going out with whom, which were the cliques. But I can still recall faces of clients, conversations with my supervisor about the work and what I was witnessing and seeing. I can recall the anger and passion that seemed to take me over and say this is what my life will be about, I cannot live in a society that condones and tolerates violence, this is the change I want to contribute to.

My faculty guide during this time was Ms. Anjali Dave. She got me fascinated with Law, Psychology, the power of language, education, research, sociology, history. Because the personal is political became my mantra, it has defined the way I have lived my life and worked for a long long time. So the first post is dedicated to you Anjali Maa’m for starting me on this journey all that time ago.

 

From Gaziantep, Turkey

 

 

[1] http://download.tiss.edu/fap/RCI-VAW/RCI-VAW_Publications/Because_the_Personal_is_Political.pdf

 

[2] Divorce

 

[3] A statement  made that has stayed with me, since it was my very first case working with a survivor of child sexual abuse.