“Culture does not make people. People make culture. If it is true that the full humanity of women is not our culture, then we can and must make it our culture.”
―Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, We Should All Be Feminists
The Yuktivadi Sangham, Palakkad organised the ‘Vimatha Rationalia 19’, a two-day event, held recently in Palakkad. The program focused on measures to weave gender equality and inclusion into “culture” in all spheres of society, mentor young women to participate in politics, and create synergies among networks advancing these issues. It had 12 women speakers and one representing the LGBT community speaking about building a safer, fairer and more sustainable future.
In an endeavor to ensure the representation of all sections of society—women and trans people—as speakers at seminars, this one was organized exclusively for them. The focus was to bring the marginalized to the centrestage. The program organisers explain that though there there is no shortage of seminars and talks conducted by Atheists/Rationalists, especially in Kerala, the number of women speakers are always few, well below 50 per cent.
“We plan to conduct this seminar every year as an exercise in intersectional feminism but this is the first time in such a large-scale,” shared Dr Beena Kayaloor, program coordinator, Yuktivadi Sangham Palakkad. She also added, “With an aim to make this space and our society more inclusive, Vimatha hopes to have dissenting voices in dialogue on gender-focused topics.”
Kayaloor, who spoke on ‘Socio-political Contexts of Sexual violence’ said, “It’s important that we speak about sexual violence prevalent in our society. Many of the cases related to sexual violence still go unregistered in our country. We need more Nirbhaya outrage, so that stricter rules are implemented to punish the offenders and build a safer environment.”
Research student and writer Maya Pramod, who won this year’s Bluestone Rising Scholar Award at Brandeis University in the United States spoke on ‘History of Dalit Women’s struggle’. She spoke about how feminism is not an international phenomenon and how Dalit women have fearlessly voiced their opinion in the male dominated India for years.
Activist Mrudula Devi Sasidharan’s ‘Forms of authority in language’ explained how certain terms in our language could actually be insulting to other communities and how education plays an integral role in the society.
On the health front Dr Navya Thykaattil and trans person Praveen Nath dealt with ‘She Health’ and ‘Health Issues of Transgender individual’. “Health is an important aspect which we need to address for an inclusive society,” shared Dr Navya, “Education plays a very significant role to maintain a healthy living. Kerala is much better placed in women’s health and hygiene compared to the Northern states like Rajasthan. Women in rural India are still dealing with menstrual health issues. We need to educate them about maintaining one’s hygiene for a healthy living.”
E A Jabbar master of the Yuktivadi Sangham opined that this seminar was one of the most informative and inclusive programs conducted by them. “Many believe that rationalists’ role is only to criticize religions. But that is not correct. Rationalists should try to take a humane rational stand in each and every issue under the sun. This seminar is a loud and clear answer to those who depict rationalists as mere religion haters.”
Dr Beena concluded, “This is just the beginning. We have to hold such dialogues every year and stand-up together for a better future.”