By Dr Firdous Azmat Siddiqui
Let me begin with one main commandment of animalism from George Orwell’s Novel ‘Animal Farm’ that ‘All animals are equal.’ The concept behind women’s movement was a fight for gender equality, a fight for justice that resulted
History of women’s studies–
The history of these centres is heavily drawn from the women’s movement in India. The first course was started in SNDT Colleges, Bombay in 1974. This happened due to the ‘towards equality report’ which threw light on
Growth and Development:
If we locate the tremendous growth of women studies, we could note that feminism was a part of a big discipline. Moreover, it evolved as independent and interdisciplinary which teaches, trains, dismantle and advocate about flaws of the society. Women studies as a discipline is not against the idea of development.
Also, it helps policymakers and institutions in facilitating development through
Gender studies as a discipline
The discipline taught about the legacy of colonialism and unfortunately, itself became a vibrant face of neo-colonialism. Indeed,
Women studies as a disciple
1. Government’s understanding of women’s/gender issues
2. University Administration attitude
3. Internal Crisis
UGC and Government: Under the influence of First W
Yes, it’s true that the higher learning centre is persistently under threat but can these centres explain why they were overlooking
What was the responsibility of University Administration? What was the responsibility of the centre’s Director? Do the women studies centre’s administration has only one duty of making networks and doing gender sensitization programmes along with seminars and conferences where they can demonstrate their visibility, can use these platforms to have ‘give and take’ and utilise centres resources for enhancing their personal curriculum vitae?
Role of Universities in shaping women’s study centre
Since its inception, the evolution of women’s studies centre has been in a very confronting situation. It has been seen as an issue of women hence it should be dealt through women. History of women studies centre in India has failed to transform women studies into gender studies. Even those centres which tried to make a
In this environment, most of these centres have identified a politically conscious strong woman academician who have the ability to organise women centred programmes, the ability to demonstrate women’s visibility and have the ability to speak colonial language enough to prove their eligibility as a head or UCC along with additional qualification of having the ability to make men sure that they can benefit whenever the need arises.
They can launch their programmes without invoking any radical demand. This phenomenon has increased particularly when universities were asked to establish a strong ICC to implement sexual harassment policy measurement strictly. In recent years, increasing cases of sexual violence at workplace and campus show how the apex body is merely a show off of elite women who have even never gone through the sexual harassment policies and legal measures related to sexual violence against women before joining this apex body as a chairperson or any other capacity.
The second reason for failure to understand the issues of women studies centre is high handiness approach of administration and widespread misconception and myth about the origin and functioning of the centre. Centres in
Hence, centres have been mainly perceived as a kind of separate college within University system that needs a permanent full-time Administrator as a Director overlooking all Guidelines of UGCs and even University’s Ordinances regarding
As a faculty of Women’s Studies since past twelve years, I strongly feel, no imperialist can understand the pain of staff working in these so-called higher learning centres who are under a very vulnerable situation of uncertainty from UGC,
It has made a very messy picture of women’s studies centre both for Administration as well as other centres. For many, it is like a telly soap, and forces others to perceive it as ‘wherever women work together, they create nuisance’. Another misconception about women administrators which I came across is that women cannot be good administrators. This needs to be dismantled, as we cannot make judgements on a
Thirdly, women studies centres under university system has been alienated from administration by perceiving it as a UGC body, hence, they do not consider themselves liable to address Centre’s issues. Hence, Universities pay no attention whether they are receiving equal pay equal wage or not, they do not bother whether 7th pay has been equally implemented to all staff or not.
It feels as if Women’s Studies Centres have no fundamental rights to raise their voices since they are not an integral part of the system. It has even been communicated time to time that, ‘they should be concerned about their position instead of raising fundamental issues of equality and justice’. If this is the attitude of people at supreme positions then rest is not to discuss. Notably, in many places there is a very strong nexus between central administration and centre’s administration to demonstrate power, to discourage any kind of resentment, to make people understand that discontent and disagreement with traditional norms can only make you more marginalised, it will only sideline you.
Hence Women studies centre became a place for demonstrating ambitions for many failed administrators/academicians. I strongly feel that no true academician can overlook the very basic concept of democratic norms in an academic institution, only the pseudo-feminist and pseudo academician can encourage this kind of non-democratic atmosphere.
Internal Crisis: Despite many efforts done by UGC and Government of India to encourage Women’s Studies subject as an established and popular subject in Universities and College, women studies remained incapable to cope with many circumstantial issues.
First: Job opportunity and considering it as a career option have been the driving force of turning towards this subject and domain knowledge for many, instead of taking it seriously as an emerging subject and paying special attention to it. It became a kind of bridge for many ambitious women.
Second: a non-traditional faculty composition of women studies centre is another challenge for many who do not understand the logic behind its composition. XIth Plan of UGC has sanctioned many positions under
They have taken these posts as extra positions and had negotiated with University Administration transferring these posts to them. Interestingly, University has never accepted claim and legitimacy of staff of women’s studies centre in their main academic set up but on the other hand they are grasping these positions depriving centres, which may have done many potential activities by doing in-house research and documentation involving Research assistants and data entry operator, they may have enriched their library into a digital library.
One can also find a visible frustration from the staff due to negligence towards them. Also, many have to face various derogatory remarks like the staff are sitting idle in their rooms, instead of commenting on the staff the centres can try to involve them with gender sensitization workshop or other activities which have been the main bone of contention for many of them, who are as eligible as any other junior staff member of an academic body. They wish to have
One can understand this with a very simple example, a clerk can raise their status to Assistant Register position under career advancement scheme and an assistant professor can rise up to Professor, but a Research Assistant and Professional assistant have to be on the same grade for their whole life. If
Faculty of women’s studies centre needs to re-evaluate themselves in light of the feminist movement and not to satisfy their personal ego.
They need to work at grass root level to understand basic concept of gender justice and not just to preach only the theory. Faculty needs to get gender oriented as well as get trained in Refresher Course specially done on Women’s Studies instead of reading/preparing curriculum part for teaching as these new emerging centres require emotional attachment with the subject along with the domain knowledge.
Last, but a very important aspect of challenges before women’s studies centre is its inefficient pedagogical approach. Classroom teaching faces problem in the interest of one of the last backbenchers, who cannot speak or write in English. It does not mean that he is not eligible for obtaining a degree in Women’s Studies. This approach is especially making a big hurdle in making this subject popular since all the reading material is available only in English, therefore, many potential students do not opt this subject due to unavailability of reading material, even if they opt they will very often drop out.
Drop out rate is very high in this subject which should also be a concern. Of course, language is not the only reason but it is one of the main reasons why students graduate from traditional subjects and do not apply for women’s studies, particularly those who have been taught in vernacular medium. Even teachers are not aware of our Ordinance which gives them the right to ask their classroom teaching in vernacular medium instead of English which has been compulsory for Science and technical subject not for Humanities and Social Science.
Thus, Women’s Studies Centre needs complete overhauling, not from internal administrative attitude but it urgently requires administrative intervention both at University level as well as from UGC and MHRD which can make a proper and feasible approach to make this subject popular rather than an elite course. Also, women Studies Centre needs to pay specific attention in election manifesto too, as it is subject which has been introduced in almost 157 centre’s which are hanging in a
Not only women’s studies centre but also an equally important discipline, i.e., social exclusion and inclusion centre opened under UGC Schemes is under severe threat that needed special attention from all sphere be it students, faculty, University Administration as well as Government to help academicians to fight for gender justice and ensuring women’s studies centre should not be overlooked in the
There is an urgent need to incorporate Women’s Studies/ Gender Studies compulsory for Under Graduate students like compulsory language papers then only George Orwell’s mission for equality can be achieved. Then only Marry Wollstonecraft concept for equality be achieved that if all humans are equal then to believe women are also human until they may be considered a beast. My only suggestion is women’s studies centre urgently needs to leave the
(Author is Associate Professor at Sarojini Naidu Centre for Women’s Studies, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi.)