Panel discussion sees presentation of diverse experiences of women at the WWC 2014
Consolidating the economic status of women is an essential part of women empowerment as it enhances their self-worth, instilling in them the confidence to stand up for themselves. A panel discussion on the facilitation of sustainable livelihoods for women through SHGs at the World Women’s Congress organized by University of Hyderabad (UoH) saw the presentation of diverse experiences of women across the world.
Etsuko Yonezawa, a Japanese woman working with Ashta No Kai, spoke about the NGO’s efforts to live up to its promise, reflected in its tag line “For a Better Tomorrow.” Ashta No Kai is a 13-year-old project that kicked off as a student exchange initiative. Japanese students were assigned to conduct community development programs in select villages, and this initiative has today evolved into a system that facilitates capacity building of marginalized women. Ashta No Kai provides rural women with education, vocational skills and resources to become economically self-reliant. Fundraising events for the NGO are conducted selling abroad hand-made products like jute bags and accessories made by these women. Ashta No Kai has granted scholarships to 500 girls till date to fund their education.
Discussions regarding women empowerment and gender equality are stereotypically steered exclusively towards marginalized women. Preethi Nair, brought back to the table gender issues faced by socio-economically stable women. A Keralite, she spoke about the growing atrocities committed against women in the state that’s lauded to be India’s best educated. She suggests that stepping up awareness and gender sensitivity programs that target both men and women could help tackle the situation. Preethi Nair also takes exception to irresponsible comments by political leaders in public discourse as they promote negative perceptions.
Dr. Anne R Breneman, a professor at Department of Sociology, Hampton University, gave her insight on what Native American women face in their reservations. The Trial of Tears which saw the forcible movement of native tribes from southeastern parts of the country to completely different environments in Oklahoma and North Carolina. On these reservations, said Dr. Breneman, people got away with sexual abuse of women and men as the jurisdiction of the police ended within the reservation.
She pointed out that there were four elements that had to be developed for true change – parental education, community development, the role of big organizations and the role of the government. She spoke of “Mother Power” and how a mother can truly shape the attitude of her child during the latter’s formative years.
Rebeccca Delancy from Kankuk University of Foreign Studies, Korea, gave a transnational perspective on the issue. She spoke about the contribution of African women in Korea – how those who were written off as liabilities proved to be employment generators through their entrepreneurial initiatives. She spoke of the need for women entrepreneurs to believe in themselves and work consistently as their contribution to economies is of great value.
Concluding the session, Eun Jung Choi from University of Southern Indiana addressed the topic of transnationalism and identity negotiation through a case study of Mary Knoll Sisters. She pointed out how missionaries became the pioneers of transnationalism understood today as persons who have crossed national boundaries to do their work.
She dwelled on the state of flux that an individual’s identity is in, and how identities are shaped, reshaped and constructed according to need. Mary Knoll Sisters, she pointed out, did not negotiate identities as they recognized all as fellow human beings, and were secure in the salience of their religious identity.
-Harika Vankadara, MA-Communication