Women's Day

Women’s Day

Newsletter March 1984


ABOUT 500 women came together 0nMarch 8 this year at Qudsia Gardens, to celebrate International Women’s Day. Seven voluntary organisations- Saheli, Action India, Sabala Mahila Sangh, Dahej Virodhi Samiti (Nangloi), Sankalp and the Committee on Portrayal of Women in the Media, joined hands to bring together women from Nandnagari, Saheed Nagar, Jehangirpuri, Shakur Basti, Nangloi, middle class housewives, students and working women in celebration of the emerging awareness of the new Woman. The women came in groups or separately. They came singing or shouting slogans:

Aath March ka hai Ye Nara, Sal ka her din ho hamara.

(On March 8th this is what we say, Each day of the year should be our day).

Nari Shakti Zindabad !

(Long live women’s power)

They came together to talk about their strengths in struggle individually and collectively, to feel positively about being a woman. No breast beating, no moaning about the double and triple burden that is our lot. Colourful banners bore slogans of Women’s power, and gave the park a festive look.

The history of March 8 was briefly narrated with a large painting of working class women celebrating International Women’s Day in 1908 in the barkground. The poster exhibition hung on the trees, depicted the footsteps of a woman breaking out of the chains of isolation within the four walls of the 'home; of sisterhood and reaching out; the beginning of consciousness; identifying the individual`s needs with the community; the beginning of groups and collective action.

The opening song reinforced the theme:

Tod Tod ke Bandhano ko dekho Bahane aati lzein, Ayengi Zulm Mitayengi, wo ra naya zamana Iayengi

(Women are arriving breaking the chains of bondage. They will stop this exploitation and create a new world.)

Some Sahelis had put together a play. "Sati" depicts the confinement of women to the home and a young widow who dares to leave the village and stay alive. Such a spirit of unconventionality, baffled many women in the audience, but sowed the seed of freedom. In retrospect, we felt we had missed an opportunity in not discussing with the audience their views on the subject.

“Om Swaha", the four year old anti-dowry play was performed by students from Delhi University which never fails to touch the viewer.

More songs and slogans were followed by a poem by Shanta Devi, a militant adult literacy teacher from Ankur, aged 55. Sumitra, a health worker from Nandnagari, hesitatingly spoke of the torture she had suffered at the hands of her in-laws and how she fought for survival and sanity.

This was our first experience in organising an occasion for 500 women. We realised the need to facilitate greater involvement from the various groups in planning and participation in the scheduled programme. But many women got over their shyness and joined in spontaneously in the singing and dancing.