Kolkata : Throughout the South Asian region inequalities arising from caste, class, religion, ethnicity, and sexuality are further getting complicated by gender-based discriminatory practices that hold back progress and development for everyone. Across all South Asian countries, patriarchal values and social norms tend to privilege men and boys’ access to opportunities and control over resources. These inequalities are manifested across the life cycle of a woman – from conception, to birth, to childhood, adolescence and throughout the adult life.
However, the South Asian countries have a significant history of women and Human Rights activist to form a strong collective and start the social movements to challenge the patriarchal, fundamentalist, State impunity and institutionalised discriminations. Over the years, women’s groups have mobilized themselves and made sure their voices are heard on different issues, starting from violence against women, gender equality, securing economic opportunities and participation, equal representation in politics, reproductive rights, family law reforms and so on and have vocalised their efforts for peace and solidarity in the South Asian Region.
To amplify this collective voice of resilience across South Asia for Peace, gender equality, democracy and justice the 30th November has been marked as a South Asian Day during the 16 days of Awareness on violence against women and girl child.
Significance of 30th November as South Asian Women’s Day
The day is observed as South Asian Women’s Day for Peace, Justice, Human Rights and Democracy under the aegis of Sangat, a South Asian feminist network. On this day, civil society organizations across the region organize events to celebrate sisterhood, solidarity and address common concerns of conflicts and violence in the region. Women in South Asia have had to bear an unequal burden of the effects of conflict whether caste, class, religion or ethnicity, in addition to the discriminatory practices due to patriarchal structures.
Swayam being part of this South Asian Network also observes this day every year by organising a public event to spread the message of peace, respect and justice to the masses. Kamla Bhasin, the renowned feminist and activist was one the founders of this SANGAT, South Asian Network who tirelessly worked to bring South Asian women’s activists and organisation together to strengthen the South Asian women’s collective to safeguard the democracy, peace and justice in the South Asian regions. And for this she used strong presence of varied cultural mediums within the South Asian regions like songs, music, dance and theatre to reach out to masses with the message of peace and justice.
This year Swayam used Kamla Bhasin’s vision of using music to bring people and communities together to create peace in the region. The cultural evening took place at Kalakunj, Shakespeare Sarani on 30th November 4 to 6pm.
We celebrated the day with renowned singers and development professionals Rafiath Rashid Mithila and Nobonita Chowdhury from Banglasdesh and With the Folk a musical group from West Bengal, India.
Rafiath Rashid Mithila, a Bangladeshi artist, singer and development worker sang beautiful songs to remind us the power of music to escalate the voice of resilience. She shared that her interaction with Kamla Bhasin helped shape her perception of feminism and gender and pushed her to become the strong feminist figure she is today.
Nobonita Chowdhury, the Director, Preventing Violence against Women initiative in BRAC, Bangladesh is a popular radio, television personality and journalist. She purposefully chose songs of Lalan Fakir and emphasised his philosophy to establish harmony in the society beyond people’s caste and religious identities.
Rafiath Rashid Mithila
Rafiath Rashid Mithila, who is best known by her stage name as Mithila, is a Bangladeshi artist, singer and development worker. She is currently the head of the Early Childhood Development programme in BRAC. She has fifteen years of experience in the field of education and early childhood development and possesses extensive experience in project development, research and teaching in the field of education. Apart from her passion for development work, she is also passionate about singing and acting and is actively involved in the creative field in India and in Bangladesh.
Nobonita Chowdhury is a well-known journalist, singer, and television host who is best known for her work as a journalist on Ekattor TV in Bangladesh. Nobonita Chowdhury began her career journey by joining the BBC World Service in the UK. Then she started a job on Ekattor TV. She has developed several music album like Teen Mahajaner Gaan. Nobonita is also a development worker with BRAC and working on gender justice and diversity.
With The Folk, Kolkata musical band
With the Folk a genre-defying band merging folk with a captivating blend of traditional and new age influences. The group has been working diligently on various local and regional heritages for an extended period. Their ongoing mission is to preserve and promote the essence of Bengali and regional music.