Pick up the stick to assert your rights

DURBA GHOSH

”When all means fail to assert one’s rightful place in home and society, pick up the stick”, says a nearly 70-year old frail woman with a steely determination in her voice.

The woman is Padmashri Sudha Varghese, fondly called Sister Sudha, whose decades of tireless and dedicated work with the Mushahars, dalits and Mahadalits of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh has earned her respect and love in the hearts of thousands of women in these parts of the country.

”Women must be aware of their basic rights and must assert themselves. If they fail to do it with dialogue, negotiations and within the legal framework, they must take recourse to other means”, she pointed out at a recent workshop on Domestic Violence, Social Norms and Role of Media organised by the Bihar chapter of South Asia Women in Media (SAWM) at Patna.

Women should not tolerate violence at any cost and once they succeed in asserting their rights, men and other members of the family and society will hestitate to resort to any kind of violence.

Women in the field of various media from different parts of the country appeared to endorse the Padmashri awardees view and shared their experiences–both personal and professional in highlighting the prevailing social norms in tackling the issue of domestic violence.

Violence in its varied forms–physical, mental, covert and overt–is deep rooted in society, across the economic and social spectrum which despite the efforts of social activists, particularly women, and media have failed to achieve the desired results.

Bihar’s speaker Vijay Kumar Chaudhury, the chief guest at the workshop, claimed that prohibiting alcohol in the state has reduced cases of domestic violence in the state and the various schemes introduced by the state government has helped in improving the condition of women to a great extent.

Subsequent speakers from the state, however, received these claims with scepticism and pointed out that the state still has a long way to go in finding their rightful place in society.

The role of media in highlighting the various facets and ways of tackling the issue of domestic violence with media members pointing out the various challenges faced by them both while covering incidents and also in the workplace.

The highlight of workshop was the screening of a film titled ‘Velvet revolution’ by film maker Nupur Basu who chronicled the adversities and challenges faced by several women journalists across the world.

The film portrayed sensitively the predicament of women in media and the hurdles they face to assert their professional rights and create their space in the world of media and free expression.

Mediapersons and activisits, however, asserted that the journey of asserting a woman’s rightful place in society has never been easy and it will continue until the basic premise of leading a life of respect and dignity is achieved.  

The workshop, participated by journalists, activists and students from Bihar, Jharkhand and other parts of the country was addressed among others by SAWM, Bihar President Nivedita Jha, SAWM (India) General Secretary Swati Bhattacharjee, Editor Jansatta Mukesh Bharadwaj, journalists Geeta Shree, Neha Dixit, Rupa Jha, Durba Ghosh, Shruti Ganpatye, Nupur Basu, Sharda Lehangir and Debosmita Bhattacharya.