Tribute to Vina Mazumdar: Founding director of the Centre for Women’s Development Studies (CWDS) – New Delhi

Newsclick Production, June 14, 2013 | Read the full article >>

Newsclick speaks to Dr. Indu Agnihotri, Director and Professor at the CWDS.

Vina Mazumdar was among the significant figures in post-independent India who voiced for gender equality. Apart from being associated with the women’s movement, Vina di, as she was fondly called, was among the pioneers in the field of women’s studies in India. Among her many significant contributions was the report — “Towards Equality” — that the Committee on Status of Women in India, of which she was an integral part, brought out in 1974. She was also the founding director of the Centre for Women’s Development Studies (CWDS) at New Delhi. In 2010, Zubaan published her autobiography, “Memoirs of a Rolling Stone.” She passed away on May 30, 2013. To remember her contributions to the women’s movement in India, Newsclick speaks to Dr. Indu Agnihotri, Director and Professor at the CWDS. […]

She played a key role in putting together a platform of national women’s organisations which she sometimes, which she often referred to as seven sisters, but this was an organisation comprising of the All India Women’s Conference which was one of the oldest organisation in India, the National Federation of Indian Women, YWCA, the Mahila Dakshita Samiti at that time, the All India Democratic Women’s Association, CWDS itself and the Joint Women’s Programme. So this network of national women’s organisations, I think, played a key role and in that Vina Mazumdar and under her leadership, the Centre for Women’s Development Studies played a key role in making one point I think which is central – that there was a need to engage with State policy; this need was determined and driven by the impact of these policies on the ground and on the everyday lives of ordinary women. So they were very much at the centre of the policy. It was not individual rights, it was not a particular class but the mass of women, the peasant women, the tribal women, women lying on the margins, women living in poverty, in socially, economically deprived segments of society. And I think the 70s saw a network, including of Development Studies, women associated with Development Studies and using those perspectives to engage with official policies – both at the international UN level as well as within their own countries.

RN: Dr. Indu, among her many contributions that you just discussed, what do you feel is her one most significant contribution to the women’s movement?

IA: I dont know if I can say that there is one single contribution because I think she was an institution builder, she believed in inculcating critical thought amongst us, she believed also in encouraging young scholars, young minds, she always found time to sit down and discuss with people, young students who she met at conferences. She would sit up late in the night discussing with younger people. Very few people who saw her only in the later years know that since 1980-81, she had started a whole process of what we call Action Research, which was very dear to her heart and she very passionately involved with programmes for collective mobilisation and organisation of peasant women and tribal women and CWDS is still running those programmes in 3 districts. She was able to convey a sense of and the need for critical thought and develop that spirit amongst women who had historically and socially been denied opportunities, to develop those skills and she saw that as a challenge; she took it on and she sustained that challenge for a long time.  […]

If you saw what she contributed as pressure in terms of government policies, new thinking, new initiatives, for instance, it was in the course of 1980 dialogue on the Sixth Plan that this idea of allocating 40% of resources to women and to women’s development and targetting them at women was floated and somewhere that still continues to hover. You know this whole thing of 1/3 rd critical mass, 1/3 rd in terms of reservations which was an issue she had raised in “Towards Equality” and she and Lotika Sarkar had dissented from the other members feeling that more concrete and specific efforts needed to be made to draw women into the political process if India was to develop as a stable and vibrant democracy. As I said, she was a student of politics and history and she understood the social dynamics and processes very well. And she sought to put her energy in taking the process of democratic engagement with policy, planning and social change on the ground; welding all these things together. […]

Source: Remembering the Rolling Stone of Women’s Movement in India | NewsClick
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