Reaching Out to Women in Colleges

Reaching Out to Women in Colleges

Souvenir 1988


Few of us on the threshold of adulthood would have found role models for our lives other than those of a wife and mother. There was hardly any scope to share our aspirations, much less realise them. Nor could we voice our concerns about emerging identities. Doubts and fears about our bodies, our rebellious thoughts about unfair treatment meted out to us as compared to male siblings, our fear of sexual molestation, were all necessarily kept bottled up.

Those of us who joined the women’s movement have experienced for ourselves the empowerment that comes from sharing experiences and having them validated. This sharing has also helped us see ourselves and our sex in the context of our society as a whole. Many of us have struggled to change our lives and help others like us. A decade or more down the line, the feeling is ‘we have this far helped pull women out of deep waters, it is time we helped them not to fall in’.

Another motivating factor in reaching out to young women stems from a historic view of the women’s movement. Through its peaks and troughs, over the last century, we find that each time women are forced to raise the same issues, make the same demands. The gains made do not seem to carry over from one generation to the other.

It is in this context that we view our efforts at organising discussions and workshops with college women. Our aim is to provide a forum for frank and open discussion, to explore ideas, share experiences and give information. In the last few years, we have had such programmes in several colleges all over Delhi. Some of them were by invitation from college lecturers to talk about our organisation and our work. Others were organised as creativity workshops in which women learnt and produced songs, skits, posters, slogans, etc, related to women’s issues. March 8, International Women’s Day, has been another occasion on which events have been organised. Sometimes, the discussions have been issue based such as a discussion on the ‘Depiction of Women in Media’ or on the various aspects of menstruation and contraception.

Our experience with these programmes has been mixed. Many women have not heard about women’s organisations and hardly know how to react. Sometimes, we find ourselves having to live down the myth propagated about us such as ‘those weird, aggressive, immoral man-hating women’. The heterogeneity of the group also poses problems at times. As in any group, the vocal English speaking women tend to dominate. Those seeking information do not always get enough. Though many of the issues touch upon their lives (eg as dowry, sexual harassment, media, health) the women find it hard to look at these issues personally. Their education, family and social environment, have already created such strong stereotypes, myths and illusions that they find it easier to views these issues as someone else’s problem rather than their own.

However, this is not to say that college students are apathetic to their environment. Women students have protested vehemently against sexual harassment on the campus. They participated in the Anti-Sati demonstrations and our campaign against obscene hoardings. More and more colleges are also organizing workshops on the legal rights of women. In the last few years, several colleges have started women’s development cells. This is a positive step though it will take time for these colleges to develop programmes of interest to their students.

On our part, we see a need to do more preparatory work. We need to do more preparatory work. We need to spend more time building up informal networks with younger women, as also preparing material on issues of interest. We believe there is a vast potential among young women to carry forward the fight for women’s liberation. It is for us to build the bridges and carry the movement forward.