Women on top

Women on top

Come women’s day and across the world we see special programmes being organised based on issues that are important to women. Our city was no different. A number of programmes were held across Thane on the eve of women’s day and this writer found himself attending one such programme – it was a group discussion organised by the Rotary Club of Thane at Sahyog Mandir Hall with an all-women power panel on the dais. More than 120 people attended the programme, and for once, women outnumbered the men. Yet, gender notwithstanding, almost everyone in the audience was actively involved in the discussion that ensued.

The programme was facilitated by two young women from Thane, Samira Gujar and Sujata Phadke. Samira is a TV artist known for who has worked in the Marathi sopa Abhal Maya and comperes a live polling show called Bola Bola, Tring Tring aired on Sahyadri Channel. Sujata is a freelance journalist for Maharshtra Times and reports exclusively on Thane.

The panellists were prominent women from different spheres that are pertinent to society in general, especially to women: Preeti Patkar of Prerna, a Mumbai-based NGO that works for the welfare of commercial sex workers (CSWs) and also runs night care centres for the children of the CSWs; Sampada Wagale a journalist who writes for Loksatta; Kranti Sathe, a councillor and an advocate specialising in divorce cases, and also former member of Film Censor Board; Madhavi Hegde Karandikar, an expert of child adoption and trustee and Honorary Secretary of Bal Asha Trust, an adoption agency in Mumbai that works for the welfare and development of women and children.

Issues discussed ranged from macro issues such as women in politics to micro ones such as child adoption by single, unmarried women. The views expressed by the panellists were enlightening and the examples cited drew much applause from the audience. Sathe said that, contrary to the belief propagated by media, marriage as an institution is not under threat in India. Even though divorce cases in India have gone up, usually the reasons for divorce are rather convincing and couples resort to it only as the last option. She emphasised an urgent need for legal literacy, citing the example of thousands of girls who attend college but are unaware of their constitutional rights. She urged para-legal institutes and NGOs to organise legal literacy camps for women across the nation. Sathe also spoke about the role of women in a male dominated field of politics and said that it was important for women to actively participate in politics.  

Patkar’s discussion focussed on society’s reluctance in facilitating the rehabilitation of CSWs. Using examples, she explained how the victims in this trade are often caught in the legal web and are pronounced guilty. She revealed that human trafficking was the third largest money-spinning racket in the world after illegal arms and drugs and if statistics are right then it may soon displace drug-trafficking to become the second. "We must do something soon before it is too late and the problem surfaces right at our own doorstep," warned Sathe.

Karandikar talked about the complicated issue of child adoption and its implications. Meera Korde, who was sitting in the audience, asked her about an issue that, as principal of a School, she often faces: "When is the right time for foster parents to reveal to the child the hard fact that they are adopted?" Karandikar said that they should reveal as soon as possible and in a manner that does not affect the self-concept of the child. Foster parents must see to it that the adopted child learns to respect himself.  

Wagale spoke about the issues and effects of VRS. Being a victim of VRS herself, she talked about how she used it as an opportunity in disguise to re-discover herself her buried talents. She also said that unemployed women should beat loneliness and bring meaning to their lives by helping the society in whatever manner possible. NGOs require volunteers and such women should participate in serving the society in their own small way.

After the programme, most people felt that every issue discussed was so important that each warranted a serious deliberation at the highest of levels of the society.

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