Women’s Day Celebration at CSIR-CGCRI, Kolkata
Dr. Swati Bhattacharjee, delivering the International Women’s Day talk
CSIR-Central Glass and Ceramic Research Institute organized a talk to mark the occasion of International Women’s Day. Dr. Swati Bhattacharjee, Fulbright Fellow and Chief Reporter - District, Ananda Bazar Patrika delivered the talk entitled “50 Shades of Pink: Gender Inequality in South Asia” on 9 March 2015.
Dr. Swapan Kumar Das, Scientist G and Acting Director on 9th March, welcomed Dr. Swati Bhattacharjee and the assembled guests. Dr. Shyamal Kumar Bhadra, Head, Human Resource Development Group and Advisor Technology Management addressed the audience and highlighted the importance of marking this day. Dr. P. Sujatha Devi, Principal Scientist, who was instrumental in organising this program introduced Dr. Bhattacharjee to the audience.
Dr. Swati Bhattacharjee began her talk by saying that earmarking one day for Women was not a tokenism but that it served the larger purpose of allowing one to dedicatedly analyse the situation, to reflect, to introspect, to speak out and to share experiences. She pointed out that in the course of just 100 years, (which is roughly just three generations) women have come a long way. From a grandmother who was most likely to not have had formal education or job prospects to a generation that had education but did not always step out to hold jobs to the current generation that takes employment as a default condition...the change has been exceptionally rapid. However, this transition is not a linear one as these generation steps co-exist in India.
Dr. Bhattacharjee spoke about the many inequalities that women battle in life. Be it the inequality of numbers where 60-68 million women are missing in India. Added to this are 5-6 lakh girl foetuses who are denied birth every year for the simple reason that they are female. The figures of missing women correspond well to the number of fatalities during World War II, she said, and these deaths are invisible ones occurring during times of peace! The Nobel prize-winning economist Amartya Sen had calculated that there were 100 million missing women in the world as of 1990. He also had pointed out the neglect that the girl child suffers in comparison to a male child when it came to access to nutrition and healthcare. Little seems to have changed since then. Girl foetuses are still denied birth, girl children are neglected to the extent that many die, teenage girls are brutalized to death, young women are burnt for dowry...this is a silent genocide and the missing women may well represent the entire population of a small nation! What mind set prompts such behaviour in a wide swath of society? And is there a solution?
Unequal access to resource is a constraint that women face whether it is with respect to education or ownership of land. Paradoxically, although only 12 per cent of the country’s agricultural land was owned by women; it was they who shouldered the lion’s share of the burden of toiling in the fields. The problem is further exacerbated when the menfolk leave to work as migrant labourers for better pay. In a nation where agricultural land is a major asset, women do not have significant ownership despite the Succession Act of 2005 which gives daughters a share of the parental land. Partly this is because of a lack of awareness and partly because of deeply ingrained cultural conditioning wherein a woman equates the amount spent on her wedding as recompense. Also, many women hesitate to scupper relations with their brothers by asking for a share in the paternal property.
Even the businesses that women control are largely insignificant in terms of turnover; about 98 per cent of these are micro-enterprises. Professional women fare only slightly better. In the media, even the most familiar faces on television are often marginalized when it comes to covering important “beats.” Many are not decision-makers. Only 5 per cent of the members of the police force are women and 10 per cent are judges. The figures for women members in the Indian Parliament are also quite low. Dr. Bhattacharjee asked all institutions, including scientific ones where there are many female research students, to take a long and hard look at the number of women they have in important posts such as Directors or members of Management Councils etc.
Dr. Bhattacharjee said that women often faced harassment at work and also a lack of promotion. She drew attention to certain “silent demands” of women which included redress for the situation where women had to trudge long hours to fetch water or collect biomass for use as fuel. She touched upon the need for sanitary toilets which would not only introduce hygienic practices and restore dignity but also confer some protection to a woman who was extremely vulnerable to attacks when using open toilets late at night or early in the morning. Of course the underlying crying needs of adequate healthcare and education remained paramount for all women.
Dr. Bhattacharjee admitted that just celebrating Women’s Day once a year was not enough to find a solution but enumerated certain areas which, if addressed, would go a long way towards assuring equality. Her list included: Inheritance Rights; Freedom from violence; Greater access to higher education, Equal opportunity at the workplace and Non-patriarchal system.
Shri Santanu Gupta recited a poem on the occasion.
A memento was presented to Dr. Swati Bhattacharjee on behalf of the Institute.
The program ended with vote of thanks by Ms. Sumana Majumdar, SO, Vigilance.