UNMUKTI-WOMEN’S DEVELOPMENT CELL

Unmukti, the Women’s Development Centre, Gargi College, has since inception been actively part of the college’s corporate life. Our inaugural event for the term was a powerful solo performance, “Walk” (on September 20, 2013), by teacher, activist and theatre performer of renown, Maya Krishna Rao. This performance, which had an audience of almost 1500 students, reflects on the tragic rape of December 16, 2012 that angered the nation’s collective consciousness; it is a performance that invites the viewer to “walk,” that is, act against, claim agency through the myriad ways available to those oppressed by gender violence, be they women or men.

Our next major activity in the first term was a peer-education workshop, facilitated by NGO Raahi, for capacity building to tackle the difficult subject of child sexual abuse. Our final major event for the first term was a panel discussion on “Gender and Mental Health”, with psychologists from Manas Foundation Delhi serving as panelists in an open enquiry into various myths, ideas and concepts in the broad area of mental health and its relation to gender, especially the feminine gender.

The WDC every year in association with Delhi Police conducts a ten-day self-defence training program. As usual, it got an enthusiastic response from the college community: over 200 students completed the training this year. A special “Workshop on Police Procedure” was conducted by WDC teacher-members to supplement the physical training provided by Delhi Police.

Our annual fest is an event that students across departments look forward to; this year, our theme was “The Gaze that Others: Femininity and the City.” Our exploration used a gendered lens to understand the mechanisms of othering as they operate in city spaces. The documentary film “Mera Apna Sheher” was screened to kick off the discussion of how might we theorise difference without otherness. Komita Dhanda (of Lady Irwin College), a performer in the film, and Shahana Bhattacharya (of Kirori Mal College) were invited speakers at the panel discussion, but the center stage on the day was held by a safety audit carried out by students from our own college. Ms. Mudita Mohile coordinated a safety audit of the college and its environs with the aim to understand how we might design a city to be less violent, less unfriendly towards those who are not normatively masculine. The students who participated in the audit were: Khushboo, Bahisht-e-Jahan, Deepika, Manisha, Monika, Prakriti, Neha, Riddhima, Rashmi, Sonia, Nootan, Bhaswati and Jyotsna, with Dr. Alka Saikia and Dr. Gagan Kumar. We hope that work of this kind will be the seed of a generative institutional resource that will help counter gender-based discrimination against young women in urban spaces. The annual festival also has much-awaited competitions like “Ad-Mad,” and “Speak Out!” besides various design competitions. In all, the WDC annual festival is an occasion for much fun, conviviality and intellectual stimulation.

The Gargi College Outstation Student’s Centre is a component of the WDC, and this term, as each year, it mounted a major data-collection campaign to update our database of resources that help in decision-making and orientation for the newly admitted student, especially the outstation student with no roots in the city. The North-Eastern students outreach campaign is underway and we hope this will help provide the student with tools for redressing discrimination on the basis of ethnic identity.

Unmukti continues to address various aspects of the health and well-being of the Gargi community in addition to being a forum where young women can develop new skills, form new communities for collective action on areas where one’s gender is a burden. We – students, teachers, colleagues all – will continue to further our agenda of transformation of gender scripts to help build a world where gender is no longer a negative constraint on the self.