Oxfam India's International Women’s Day Celebrations

Oxfam India's International Women’s Day Celebrations

March 8 is celebrated as International Women’s Day. We celebrated it with marches, series of meetings with women farmers and members of forest management committees, university conference, and cycle and motorcycle rallies in our focus states. Here is a quick wrap of all the events.

In Odisha, Oxfam India in collaboration with Utkal University organised Inter-College Students’ Meet on International Women’s Day at the university campus on the theme “Women’s Leadership at home and in Public Life”. Students from 13 colleges participated in a skit competition on the same theme. Oxfam India also felicitated Prof. Sabita Acharya, Vice Chancellor, Utkal University for being the first woman to assume the office; two students Sasmita Mandal and Pranab Sahu were felicitated for challenging gender social norms in their individual capacity. These students were part of the Oxfam India course on gender equality. Later in the afternoon, a town hall meeting was organised with women employees on the theme “I am Proud of Being a Woman”. The participants shared their life experiences of challenging patriarchy and making a difference in their lives.

In Bihar, International Women’s Day was celebrated through the week from 5th to 11th March. She शोर organised by Oxfam India aimed to raise  awareness and involve people in Patna in the discourse around gender related issues.  From discussing gender inequalities to celebrating the women achievers from Bihar, it worked towards empowering women.

Discussions were held on topics including Domestic violence, social norms around marriage and the problems behind deciding the age of marriage for girls. With the intent to include people from all walks of life, a 3-day social media campaign #ChooseToChallenge asked known faces from Bihar to challenge gendered social norms. The video featured Padma Shree awardee, Singers, Radio Jockeys, student activists, social activists, Youtubers, actors, education activist, journalists, girl’s football team, girl’s kabaddi team, women vegetable vendor, women auto driver and authors.

On March 7, She शोर —an event addressing gender-related issues and celebrating women achievers from Bihar— was organised in Shri Krishna Vigyan Kendra in Patna. During the event, women achievers spoke about their journey. Usha Jha, President of Mahila Udyog Sangh, shared the story behind her success recounting it from her childhood days. Jyoti Mishra, Senior Correspondent, News18 Bihar inspired young aspiring journalists by sharing her journey in the field of journalism. Sarita rai, Education activist and founder of 'Topper Study Point - The Udaan' which provides free education in four districts of Bihar, shared her journey behind the initiative. Artist Ankita Raj, through live painting conveyed the message that, ‘Women can say NO to anything she wants without hesitation’.  Amrita Singh, social entrepreneur, and founder of Nav Astitva foundation—an NGO providing sanitary napkins in villages at nominal prices and opening sanitary vending machines in public areas in Patna—shared her story of the social hurdles she faced while working for the cause.

This was followed by a panel discussion. Rajani Sahay, Executive Director of Sahyogi, talked about domestic violence and introspected upon the reason leading to the cause. She shared the woes of rural women during the pandemic and her experience of working with the survivors of domestic violence. She highlighted the role of markets in discriminating between genders. Shefali Roy, Head of Department of Political science, Patna University spoke about social norms around marriage. With excerpts from her personal life, she critically broke down the patriarchal traditions and rituals around marriage, for the audience. Highlighting the importance of marriage, she explained ways to stay in a healthy marriage. Sharing a personal incident, she talked about the mindset of people on Feminism. Sushmita Goswami, Project head for Gender justice, Oxfam India, shared the history behind March 8 being recognised as International Women’s Day. She talked about the role of state in deciding the age of marriage for girls and its consequences. Suggesting ways for working towards the benefit of women, she also urged the audience for active participation in the day-to-day gender related issues

Padma Shree awardee Sudha Varghese felicitated the Panel members and Women Achievers. She also addressed the audience with her speech on the rights of the marginalised women. She शोर concluded with a musical tribute to women by Rahul and Harish from Community Jamming.

On 8 March, the highlight was the March for Equality, where people in Patna took to the streets with banners and posters with message related to age of marriage for girls and women, domestic violence, and social gender norms. The marchers marched to the tune of the nari Gunjan band. This was followed by a signature campaign for gender equality and it was addressed to the National Commission for Women.

In Lakhimpur Kheri in Uttar Pradesh, over 100 women farmers attended  meetings to mark International Women’s Day where they stressed on the need for economic empowerment for all women. In Lucknow, youth from the #SamtaNetwork held meetings & discussions with students of different colleges in #Lucknow. Nearly 2000 students from 15 colleges participated in the event. School Management Committees in Banda district in UP, held meetings and stressed on the need for educating girls. In Raebareli, a meeting was organised to discuss the safety of women and girls. The meeting was attended by women police officers, principals, and government officers.

In Chhattisgarh, the occasion was marked with a motorcycle rally from March 5th to 8th. The rally, that went across over 50 villages in Dhabra block in Janjgir Champa district, spread the message of gender equality, ending violence against women, need to focus on empowerment and not the marriage age, women empowerment and social norms. Street plays were held in different villages as part of the rally. Spearheaded by Nivedita Foundation, the rally was supported by Oxfam India and others.

A district-level meeting of women members of forest management committees was organised in Bandhabazaar in Rajnandgaon district, where the stress was laid on the role of women in conserving and protecting the forests.

(with inputs from Sushmita Goswami, Rukmini Panda, Binod Sinha, Prakash Gardia and Shipra)

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