The Centre for Women’s Studies, University of Hyderabad (UoH) recently organised a panel discussion on “Taking Charge of Our Bodies” in the Conference Hall, School of Social Sciences. The panelists were Dr. Veena Shatrugna, Retired Deputy Director from National Institution of Nutrition, Hyderabad, Ms. Gita Ramaswamy, Hyderabad Book Trust, Hyderabad and Prof. Sheela Prasad, Centre for Regional Studies, UoH.
The panel was moderated by Prof. K. Suneetha Rani, Head, Centre for Women’s Studies. The discussion centred on the book Taking Charge of Our Bodies: A Health Handbook for Women published by Penguin Books in 2004. Veena Shatrugna, Gita Ramaswamy and Srividya Natarjan are the authors of the book while the editors of the book consisted of a team from the Anveshi Research Centre for Women’s Studies, Hyderabad. The book uses women’s experiences as an ideological tool. It was adaptation of the Telugu book Savaalaksha Sandehalu: Streela Arogya Samasyalu (One Hundred Thousand Doubts: Women’s Health Problems) published in 1991.
Gita Ramaswamy of Hyderabad Book Trust began the discussion by drawing attention to the field work on which the book was based. She explained how the collection and documentation of interviews worked like a therapy for her postpartum blues. Veena shatrugna continued the discussion by bringing in more issues about the making of the book. She discussed how the book explains the body, sexuality and mental health of women combining modern medicine as well as traditional practices. It was an attempt to make women aware of their bodies without any fear or stigma. Sheela Prasad spoke on the significance of the book and said that it is rightly called a handbook as it is very useful for women to examine, understand and heal their bodies and eliminate the taboos associated with Women’s bodies. The audience consisting of students and faculty raised many questions which led to a very meaningful and insightful discussion. K. Suneetha Rani, concluded the session by saying that despite its limitations, the book was very significant. More significant was the context in which this book was written which is a milestone in Women’s Movements when women started speaking about the need to shatter the apprehensions and prejudices built around women’s bodies.