What happens on campus: gender, identity, inclusion and period taboos, students strive to bring change

Recently I fought with my grandmother to follow menstrual taboos, which is basically another version of untouchability. I have PCOD, so it is not that I can easily schedule my home visit accordingly, since my periods are not regular. In case I start menstruating while I'm at home, I would have to sit isolated and be treated as untouchable, said Aarti Balaji, a fourth-year student at the School of Liberal Arts of Symbiosis, who presented a research paper called Blood and Bloodlines : menstrual taboos perpetuated across communities.

Symbiosis ....

In her presentation, fourth-year student Oishani Banerjee focused on the work and life of the workers and caregivers of Anganwadi de Lohegaon and highlighted how they are poorly paid and rarely respected. My mother had worked in the Development of Women and Children for a long time and I had always been interested in knowing the challenges these women face and overcome while they are at work, said Oishani, who specializes in Psychology.

A collaborative project and a presentation by three fourth-year students, Atmadeep Sengupta, Malavika Rangarajan and Aditi Natarajan, explored the intersection of public and private life of part-time domestic workers in Viman Nagar.

The students of Symbiosis School of Liberal Arts presented their research papers in three categories: Gender in literature and cinema, 'Gender and work in contemporary India, and Gender in contemporary India: power, politics, norms and practices', in the Second recently concluded edition of the International Gender Conference organized by the Symbiosis School for Liberal Arts in collaboration with DePaul University on the Viman Nagar campus. The two-day event explored, discussed and questioned several issues, such as the reinforcement/rejection of gender binaries in the arts, the impact of family interaction on gender and identity, the representation of 'The third sex' and the non-binary, queer Activism in the contemporary world and digital spaces, understanding and reconstruction: conversations about masculinity, through presentations, debates, film screenings and performances.


While the first day brought to the forefront how a perspective through a gender perspective helps us understand and effectively expose the underlying structures that create and build identities, the second day witnessed that students, alone and in groups, present his studies on gender and identity issues. A day in the life of domestic help For Malavika and her co-authors, what intrigued them about part-time female domestic aids, was the intricacy that these women are intertwined with our days. “Despite being indispensable and significant for the economic base, they are largely overlooked as contributors to the economy due to the domestic nature of their work. The work itself, since it is part of the unregulated informal sector, can be very alienating. This is aggravated by the lack of increases, low wages and the absence of rewards. In addition, we were interested in understanding their conception of the public sphere, since these women who go out to the public is really an intersection of private spheres. We understood their identities in relation to the way capitalism and patriarchy work together in the informal market, with a focus on their daily lives, both outside and inside their own homes, says Malavika. Students hope that their efforts can help to rethink existing salary structures and incentives currently in force for these women. Sharing his findings from his own study and interactions with domestic help in Viman Nagar, Malavika says: “As researchers, we learned about the dimensions of your reality that we tend to overlook or ignore, especially with our own personal domestic help that comes from a point of blinding privilege. This study translated into our own worldviews, making us much more aware and intentional with our actions. Hopefully, this research will also do the same for others. ” The period of change Aarti's individual investigation of the period as a taboo made her deepen the behaviors and mentality of the men and women around her, including her classmates on campus. “I have always wondered why women perpetuate such customs when it is a burden to themselves.

I realized that it is deeply rooted in their identity because they see themselves defined by patriarchal norms, ”Aarti laments. In his article, he recommends that villages and cities have separate community homes for menstruation and women who have reached menopause. “We should have local homes for the community formation of these women and to give them a place free from the eye of the patriarch or the family. The houses would also guarantee the provision of nutrition, therapy and legal assistance required. Older women, who are their last menopause, must have a separate community house and also women who menstruate because each one has different ideas about these taboos, and they must be approached differently. The home for women's past menopause can turn household chores, such as cooking or sewing, into community activities where women can spend time working together and have more free time at home to save time at home, Aarti suggests during a conversation. With his mother, Aarti realized that filial piety is a great reason why blind beliefs continue to exist. She adds: Improving self-image and body image and the knowledge and confidence of these individual women will lead to a new cycle of positive reinforcement and empowerment of women at the base, argues Aarti.

Anganwadi workers' struggles

“When I started reading certain newspaper articles and talking with my mother about the Anganwadi workers and helpers, I realized that they are still considered 'voluntary' or 'part-time' workers and that they earn scarce income. I wanted to explore their lives and find out if there was something interesting that I could track through gender studies, ”says Oishani, who studied and interacted with workers in six Anganwadi centers in the Lohegaon area. Oishani began his research by reading another literature, followed by a field survey in the area and spent months researching. “I interviewed seven Anganwadi workers and my questions were opened because I wanted to give them space to talk as much as possible. They opened up about their struggles in their daily lives and that really helped me complete the study qualitatively and full of emotions. When I started, I had imagined that their conditions would be very bad, but I was surprised, contrary to the available literature that says that the conditions of Anganwadi centers and workers are better in Pune, I discovered that it was worse, says Oishani. Oishani says the experience disturbs her a lot. “The conditions under which they work, regardless of how bad they are, work extremely hard. Through my work, I want to highlight ethics in the workplace that could help improve their conditions and lives, he adds. Inclusion and equal rights

A session called Power, rights and politics: intersection with gender saw The Queer Crew, LGBTQIA + support group in SSLA, Pune presenting an inclusive activity of the audience. The activity consisted of creating a visual representation of the intertwined identities by having the volunteers link multiple categories with which they identified personally, using thread. The group of volunteers made students and speakers from different backgrounds join. Highlighting the importance of intersectionality, Ava Gilder, the founder of Queer Crew, said proudly: “We are all made of mixtures of multiples. Our differences unite us. He stressed the importance of adopting an intersectional approach to identify complex contexts and formulate strategies to better meet needs. We are grateful to our university for providing us with a safe space to talk openly about gender and identity, thus helping them escape the exhausting life of hiding and fighting homophobia, said a crew member.

Sarang Punekar, a gender activist, who was one of the speakers and gave a moving talk about her life, said: “Standing on that podium could help young minds navigate policies that could later help me live a better life. . The third speaker, Gayatri Kotbagi, gave an interesting talk about her work as a clinical psychologist and highlighted the fact that gender bias may be the reason for mental health problems. She added: It's time to listen, not talk.

The conference came to an end with the performances of clubs led by students of SSLA, Bandemonium, The Natak Society, It could be Verse and The Film Club , which brought to light that spaces do not exist in a vacuum, but are always governed by gender laws.

Students address several problems.

Under the category of Genre in Literature and Cinema, Upasana Rangarajan presented a study on Claiming the legacy of Andal, an ideal woman in Tamil culture. This was followed by Divyali Mehrotra's examination of female characters in the Guide of R. K. Narayan. He noted that in the colonial context, women were perceived as the bearers of the national tradition. The last presenter in this category, Rutvi Mehta, analyzed the Bollywood Rekha icon through Susan Hayward's 'stardom' theory as a construction and a deviant.

The Gender and Labor category had a presentation by Shreya Hiwale, who discussed the working conditions of sanitation workers in Viman Nagar. The presentation category, Gender in Contemporary India, prompted Pratyaksha Prakash to present his seminar document on the understanding of the impact of migration on women through the 'Chhath' festival, followed by Kavya Ranjith, presenting 'his' autoethnography that He tracked the conflict with 'his' gender and identity from his childhood to the present. The next presenter, Ishika Saxena, presented A feminist critique of distributive practices in India applying Nancy Fraiser's feminist critique of policymaking. The last presenter, Professor Richa Minocha, talked about how policymakers should take into account the beneficiaries of each scheme before implementing it.