Vasudha- the Women Cell of Jain University provides women staff and students guidance and support to deal with a range of issues from safety to work-life balance. During each academic year, it organizes a number of events and counselling sessions, and makes available any required assistance.
Words: Namratha A. Rai
Skim through a newspaper, switch on the TV or surf the Internet, and you’ll come across numerous incidents of violence against women at workplaces, institutions, out on the streets, on public transportation, being teased, touched or spoken to in derogatory terms, becoming victims of acid attacks, being physically, emotionally and mentally abused. Therefore, it has become imperative to empower and educate ourselves with life skills and on subjects like healthcare and law to protect ourselves and our loved ones.
Realizing the importance of a forum that can create awareness on important topics by having discussions, seminars and demonstrations, and address issues faced by women, most organizations and institutions are setting up units which cater to the needs of women employees and students.
Jain University, already known for its pro-women reforms and support, established its women’s cell – Vasudha in 2009 with three faculty members, eight student organisers and eight volunteers from various streams. Today, these numbers have gone much beyond. The Cell was set up with a purpose to create awareness on issues that women face in today’s world through talks, workshops, peace marches, competitions for students and faculty members and the celebration of International Women’s Day. Ever since its inception, Vasudha has been playing a crucial role in assisting individuals and groups realize the need for an equitable society. Through various activities, it ensures women are recognized as a significant part of the society, who should be represented equally in both private and public domains. The unit uses theoretical, practical and extension approaches to accomplish this. By sensitizing them to realities, the staff and students are made aware of the need for gender equality, which in turn will help to build a society with social and economic equality as envisaged in the Indian Constitution.
The programmes conducted by Vasudha have touched the staff and students in one way or another. The Cell has made them aware of the need for self-defence skills as this is required to tackle a big issue in today’s society: violence against women. Towards fulfilling this goal, a workshop on self-defence is organised annually for the women students. The workshop is conducted by the group, Wakayama under the guidance of Sensei Mathews P. Raj, a master in Karate. The team also demonstrates fitness exercises in Karate, which has helped the faculty and students alike. “Defence through Karate is a session that instills confidence and independence within as it teaches us a few simple tricks and movements that could be effective in certain situations. These workshops help as we learn basic techniques of self-defence,” said Sneha V., a VI Semester student from Jain University.
Apart ftom self-defence, the activities undertaken by Vasudha also focus on health and well-being. For example, the competitions on healthy cooking and guest lectures on nutrition by dieticians have helped the staff and students understand the basic need for healthy living and the significance of nutrition in day-to-day life. The Cell also organizes health camps to create awareness on basic health parameters and workshops on topics like ‘Being a Woman Today’ and Being a Woman by Chance or Choice’ have made students understand the struggle a woman faces every day and how she can overcome it.
“Vasudha celebrates the essence of womanhood,” as one of its members puts it. It is actively engaged in the celebration of Women’s Day which features competitions and talks that benefit women. Some of the activities undertaken by Vasudha include peace marches to create awareness and social awakening towards the cause – Save the Girl Child, a rally in association with the ABVP to support laws for women’s safety and to protest against the Delhi rape case, talks on gender sensitization and image building, a talk by Dr. Kiran Bedi on women’s rights and quiz competitions for faculty members on women achievers highlighting the role of women in various fields such as arts, culture, entertainment, literature, politics, science and sports.
One of the recent programmes held was a talk on Women Power and Empowerment by Dr. Sudha Sitharaman, Professor, Pondicherry University. She spoke on the areas of empowerment such as education, employment and decision-making by women at various levels. Dr. Sitharaman also highlighted the various reasons for the secondary status of women in socio-economic institutions in the society, ranging from women priesthood to heading a nation. “It is important to understand the concepts of freedom, choices, opportunities and responsibilities to redefine the roles and status of women,” she said. The position and status of women in a democratic set up, the diverse backgrounds of caste, class, religion and regions affecting the status of women, and the outlook about women across the world and juxtaposing it with an individual’s outlook were discussed at large. She also touched upon the role and responsibility of women’s cells working at the levels of academia, practical realities and action-oriented programmes. The talk included an interaction with students about stereotypical attitudes and existent realities.
Vasudha has a slew of activities planned for 2016. Some of these are self-defence workshops, group/panel discussions and activities on contemporary gender issues and women empowerment, inter-class competitions, guest lectures, skits and road plays, health and legal awareness programmes, collaboration with women organisations and celebrating special days including International Women’s Day. Although the cell is focused solely on women-related issues, it has plans to work with the NSS and other departments of the Centre to conduct programmes to help orphanages and old age homes in the future.