The proposed seminar aims to create awareness about the basic concepts, rationale and objectives of Women’s Studies, highlight its unique facets and aspects and also outline its career prospects. A pervasive misconception prevails regarding the content and purpose of Women’s Studies. Randomly and recklessly misspelt as Women Studies, Women Study, Women’s Study etc, Women’s Studies is at times looked upon as a subject akin to Home Science, a course that either grooms women for a domestic role or trains them in professions supposedly feminine. It is often naively clubbed with Family Studies.
Emerging in India in the 1970s both as an independent academic programme and as a critical perspective informing the established disciplines, Women’s Studies is now a fast developing field. Its rapid institutionalization over the decades has also engendered research of an unprecedented magnitude. Women’s Studies is an ever-expanding domain that not only cuts across the barriers that have hitherto divided the traditional/ mainstream disciplines like literature, history, political science, sociology, economics, education, philosophy and science but also encompasses newly burgeoning fields of scholarship such as films, performance and travel.
In order to generate awareness among students regarding the theoretical premises and rationale of Women’s Studies, the facets and features of Women’s Studies, some of the stalwarts in the field have been invited to share their views and vision, ideas and expertise with the assembled audience. Pink, a film which has earned encomiums in recent times for its feminist message, will also be screened before the audience. A film maker and critic, has been invited to initiate the students into the basics of feminist film analysis.
There is an unfortunate degree of scepticism with regard to the employment prospects of this discipline. While, admittedly, the prospects in the teaching profession are not too bright in West Bengal, given its absence in school level curriculum and also its slim presence in the undergraduate college level, students with a Masters degree in Women’s Studies nevertheless have a vast scope for employment in governmental institutions and non-governmental organizations working for women’s rights and on women’s issues. In order to sensitize the students regarding the career opportunities offered by the discipline, representatives of two non-governmental organizations, SPAN and Swayam, have been invited to conduct interactive sessions with students, discuss their own activities and also the opportunity they offer for employment in its various projects.
Finally, the seminar intends to provide the students of the various departments of the University the much needed platform for sharing their ideas on women’s issues, their lived experiences and their little initiatives towards research in the field of Women’s Studies through, poster and short story-writing competitions, debates and group discussions.
The seminar thus aspires to sensitize students and also foster a general awareness regarding the subject through lectures by veterans, interactive sessions with representatives of NGOs, a film appreciation session and also through debates, group discussions and competitions. Such awareness is especially imperative in an institution that is committed to the education and empowerment of women students, especially women of South 24 Parganas, a district in which the female population lag behind in development indices like education and employment, besides suffering domestic and sexual violence and multiple forms of marginalization based of caste, class and community. The seminar thus aspires to carry the vision and mission of the university forward in its own humble way.
The seminar will be held on 8 and 9 March 2017 on the occasion of International Women’s Day which is celebrated worldwide every year on 8th March. In 1908, 15,000 women marched through New York City demanding shorter working hours, better pay and voting rights. In accordance with a declaration by the Socialist Party of America, the first National Woman's Day (NWD) was observed across the United States on 28 February 1909. Women continued to celebrate NWD on the last Sunday of February until 1913. In 1910 a second International Conference of Working Women was held in Copenhagen. Clara Zetkin, leader of the 'Women's Office' for the Social Democratic Party in Germany, tabled the idea of an International Women's Day. She proposed that every year in every country there should be a celebration on the same day - a Women's Day - to press for their demands. The delegates at the conference greeted Zetkin's suggestion with unanimous approval. On the eve of the World War I, Russian women observed their first International Women's Day on the last Sunday in February 1913. In 1913 following discussions, International Women's Day was transferred to 8 March and this day has remained the global date for International Women's Day ever since. On this day, women around the world renew their pledge for gender parity, re-emphasize their demand for a better, safer and more equal world, and also celebrate their achievements. It is a day which women globally cherish and look forward to. The proposed engagement with the concepts, facets and prospects of Women’s Studies on 8-9 March 2017 is our own humble way of celebrating the day.