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Practical Ways For Feminists To Work Towards Creating A More Inclusive Society

23/12/2016 2:51 PM IST | Updated 26/12/2016 1:01 PM IST
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This article is the third installment of a three-part series which was originally written for and published onShenomics.comby Bithika Misha Rahman. Read part 1here and Part 2 here.

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Understanding the kyriarchy is one thing, but practicing intersectionality in our every day feminism is wholly another. How can we be purposeful in our endeavours to create a more inclusive society? How do we end our complicity in oppressive systems? For me, it begins with the below:

1. Listen, Learn, Share

Listen: First hand narratives offer powerful insights into real women and their struggles. They are ground zero for checking our own preconceptions and privileges. As allies, we should listen to women when they share their stories without interruption, doubt or judgment.

Many think education will make everything okay, but we know that it is not what happens. Safeena Husain, executive director, Educate Girls

Learn: As we actively seek sources to understand and empathise with marginalized women whose realities are different than our own, we should try to learn not just of their individual challenges and triumphs, but our part in the relating systems as well. They are more than statistics, and we are more than bystanders in their oppression.

Share: First-hand narratives are not always easy to come by, especially in India. Language barriers, education barriers, social stigma, limited access to technology and distribution greatly inhibit women from sharing their truth. So whenever possible we should take it upon ourselves to provide platforms and support those who have shared their own stories.

As a side note, we should be mindful in our consumption of stories. We should not extort or rewrite histories for entertainment purposes, or support those who do. (We cannot appropriate the stories of others for shock or entertainment value.)

2. Full diversity

Diversity in one of the biggest buzzwords in corporate India today, but it's not as simple as throwing more women into leadership positions - though that'd be a great start. It's about getting a range of women from all backgrounds and beliefs in these roles. As champions for diversity, we can't only seek to add people like us.

Eric Meola

3. Avoiding quick and easy solutions

Too often I hear "education" hailed as the solution for all of society's problems, especially from the well intentioned but ill-informed. While education is critically important for empowering all peoples, it alone is not enough. Understanding the kyriarchy means understanding the systemic and cultural barriers that are built into society.

Safeena Husain is the executive director of the non-profit organisation Educate Girls. Husain explains, "Many think education will make everything okay, but we know that it is not what happens. For instance, if you look at Middle Eastern countries, like Bahrain. A lot of women are doing their Masters and PhDs and a lot of boys are dropping out after 10th grade. But that doesn't necessarily lead to women being able to fulfill their potential, because mindset change has not happened. Women still get left behind or subjugated, even though they're highly educated... Education is critical, but without a change in mindset it's incomplete. [India] won't be able to go down the road to equity without both of these growing in parallel."

At some point, someone may tell us we are a part of the problem. As long as we are willing to listen and [reflect], we can grow.

Education is too simple an answer for complicated problems; touting it as the ultimate solution is disingenuous and condescending to those who are struggling to better their situation. We live in a complex world, and that isn't a bad thing. We should not try to solve other people's problems with quick or easy answers.

4. Checking ourselves and others

We can't always be right or the most informed. If someone checks your behaviour, it's best to listen with open ears. As activist Audre Lorde puts it, "If I participate, knowingly or otherwise, in my sister's oppression and she calls me on it, to answer her anger with my own only blankets the substance of our exchange with reaction. It wastes energy. And yes, it is very difficult to stand still and to listen to another woman's voice delineate an agony I do not share, or one to which I myself have contributed." At some point, someone may tell us we are a part of the problem. As long as we are willing to listen and take a step back for reflection, we can grow.

Additionally, good intentions don't count for much. Don't be afraid to check your friends and loved ones. It's one thing to believe in equality; it's another to stand up for it. In the pursuit of equality, allies are paramount. Our sisters need our voices.

5. Love

Love all those you encounter, and love hard. Hold each other up. This life is too difficult a thing to not have your sisters' back. We're all we've got.

Below are select activists, resources and organisations to help those interested in learning more about intersectional feminist issues in India today.

Resources

General resources and storytelling platforms:

Zubaan Books

Her Story

FeminismIndia

GenderMatters

The Ladies Fingers

Ink Talks

Feminist

LGBTQ community activists/organisations/resources:

Organisations/ Resources:

Sangama

GoodAsYou

MINGLE, Mission for Indian Gay & Lesbian Empowerment

Swabhava

Bangalore Pride March

More comprehensive list of General LGBTQ resources

LBTQ Women Specific Organisations:

Whaq!

Maya for Women Sahodari

Ondede

Social networks/online resources

Wonderful Things Happen (matchmaking service for lesbian and bisexual women in India)

Activists:

Akkai Padma

Sunitha Krishnan

Laxmi Narayan Tripathi

Priyababu

Celina Jaitly

Gauri sawant

Madhu Bai Kinnar

Manabi Bandyopadhyay

Kalki Subramaniam

Dalit women activists/organisations/ resources

Organisations/resources:

#DalitWomenFight

IDSN, The International Dalit Solidarity Network

All India Dalit Mahila Adhikar Manch (AIDMAM, or the All India Dalit Women's Rights Forum)

The Dalit Mahila Samiti (DMS)

Dalit Women's Self-Respect March

NCDHR National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights

Women in Governance - India

Social networks/online resources:

IDSN, The International Dalit Solidarity Network

Dalithistory.com

Reads/reports:

The Dalit Women's Movement

The "Dalit Woman"

Activists:

Ruth Manorama

Thenmozhi Soundararajan,

Asha Kowtal

Christina Thomas Dhanaraj

Savitribai Phule

Many more Dalit Women leaders

Religious

Organisations/resources:

Bhoomata Brigade

Aawaz-e-Niswaan

Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan BMMA

All India Muslim Women's Personal Law Board

Bebaak Collective

Reads/reports:

Supreme Court, Hindu Women in Temples

Hindu Mythology, "What They Don't Tell You"

Educating Muslim Women in India

Activists:

Trupti Desai

Shaista Ambar

Rakhshanda Jalil

Nivedita Menon

Various Muslim women leaders

Disability

Organisations/resources:

Women with Disability Letter

National Platform for Disabled Rights and Dutites/ National Platform for the Rights of the Disabled

Inclusive PlanetMarginalization of Women with Disabilities

Sruti Disability Rights Centre/ Voice of Specially Abled People

CREA World

Reads/reports:

Demonetisation

Disabled Women Excluded From Indian Feminism

Activists/leaders:

Nidhi Goyal

Shampa Sengupta

Asha Hans

Laxmi Agarwal

Anita Ghai

Rural Women:

Organisations/resources:

Gulabi Gang

Women on Wings

Gramya Resource Centre for Women

Mahila Kisan Adhikaar Manch (MAKAAM)

Activists/leaders:

Women Saparnachs across rural India

Dr. V Rukmini Rao

And finally many many rebellious more.

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