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Jamia Millia Islamia reaches out to women in distress

Friday February 25, 2011 11:58:09 AM, Madhusree Chatterjee, IANS

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New Delhi: The women's studies centre in Jamia Millia Islamia has broken new ground by reaching out to distressed and deprived women on the capital's fringes as part of its study module.

"We are trying to work with the community in an organised way because we are trying to make our academic curriculum more initiative- oriented," Bulbul Dhar-James, director of the university's Sarojini Naidu Centre for Women Studies, told IANS.

"For the first time, we have identified Shaheen Bagh, four kilometres from the university towards the river, as one of the most deprived areas in the neighbourhood. It is majorly populated and unauthorised too. We are taking up the area as case study to address issues of development."

James said her centre was "looking at migration into the area post-Godhra (communal violence in Gujarat in 2002) and post-Ayodhya (communal riots after the 1992 Babri mosque demolition) and education of the girl child".

"We have included them in our gender sensitisation programme with legal and clinical aid," James said.

The Jamia centre is conducting legal awareness workshops with students and members of the faculty to generate awareness about domestic and gender violence and the legal support available to victims.

"Imparting life skills to women to make them self-employed is one of the key components of our sensitisation campaign," she said.

Her centre will identify more communities in the months to come.

James will represent the country and South Asia as a special rapporteur at the 16th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva next month that will address gender violence, women and children's welfare and cross-border terrorism.

Commenting on the plight of women in conflict areas and situations, she said, "women were equal perpetuators, sometimes bigger than men, of conflict situations. We want to work in tandem with peace and within the framework of law and harmony," she said.

James urged women to avail themselves of the legal and clinical aid provided by the Sarojini Naidu Centre.

The centre is collaborating with the NGO Breakthrough, the creator of the Bell Bajao campaign against domestic violence, to raise awareness about domestic violence. The campaign urges the people to ring the bell in a house when domestic violence is unfolding inside.

At a panel discussion hosted by the Jamia centre, country-director of Breakthrough Sonali Khan said, "More silences had to be broken down and more conversations were necessary to address issues pertaining to sexual violence and help women take up roles of leadership".

"In most marginalised communities, there is little articulation of sexual violence. At this juncture, we cannot expect community-level norms to address it, but we can talk about it. At least the challenge to meet the threat posed by HIV/AIDS has enabled people to talk more openly about sexuality and safe sex methods," Khan said.

Outlining a trend thrown up by a survey on sexual violence in urban fringe carried out by her organisation, Khan said, "there was still a lot of verbiage associated with sexual violence".

She said "people were now aware of the fact that the violence could include verbal abuse, psychological torture and economic deprivation as well."

"We need to work at various levels like in society, judiciary and in families to mobilise opinion against violence against women. The law against domestic violence is in place, but the mechanism is ambiguous," Khan said.

(Madhusree Chatterjee can be contacted at







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