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Karnataka: Two-day Conference in Tumkur Marks International Women’s Day

Former Kerala Health Minister Guest of Honour; Pourakarmikas, sex workers, factory workers, and domestic workers among other participants

Bengaluru: Women from various gender rights organisations across the state of Karnataka headed to Tumkur for a two-day program to mark International Women’s Day. The program was organised by a collective known as ‘Karnataka Rajya Mahila Dourjanya Virodhi Okkuta’ (Karnataka State Federation opposing violence against women). Former Kerala Health Minister, KK Shailaja, was the Chief Guest. The program was conducted at the Amanikere Glass House, a community space in Tumkur.

A press release by the organisation says that they conduct awareness programs and people’s struggles in different districts each year. Women from various spaces like literature, education, and activism participate in their programs. 

The International Women’s Day program saw participation from Pourakarmikas, sex workers, factory workers, domestic workers, and Scheme workers from Anganawadis and Ashas. On March 7, the program commenced with songs of resistance. Thamte Narasamma, a musician for 30 years, put up a high-energy thamte (drum) performance to rouse the audience. Women were seen breaking into spontaneous dances on and off stage. Musical and cultural performances were also put up by women from Alemari (nomadic) communities.

Nahida Jam Jam spoke about her experiences while serving as a public officer during the Covid-19 pandemic. A tahsildar of Sira Taluk in Tumkur, Nahida received public appreciation for discharging her duties while pregnant. On multiple occasions, she ventured out in the open in order to reassure people and convince them not to panic.

Kerala MLA KK Shailaja spoke about Indian democracy and pluralism. Addressing the audience, she said, “democracy means perfect equality in opportunity. Due to decentralised planning and socialist ideology, Kerala achieved 100% literacy. But the average for the rest of the country is around 70%. We have to make education available to all. There are many evils in society because of superstitious beliefs. We have to get rid of them and inculcate scientific thinking. When India received independence, what kind of society did we have? We still had princes and landlords. In Malabar, if a peasant girl had to get married, she first had to go to the landlord’s house to break her virginity. That was the prevailing custom of landlordism. In Kerala, we fought hard to eradicate such practices.”

Other speakers included trans activist, Akkai Padmashali, the All India Mahila Samskritik Sanghatan (AIMSS) Karnataka state president, Dr Sudha Kamath, and Syed Mujeeb of Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU). Later in the day, the women proceeded to freedom square in Tumkur and held a candlelight vigil dubbed, ‘Women in Black.’ Dr HS Anupama spoke about the history of women’s movements and the importance of women occupying public spaces.

The following day, on March 8, a conference was held at the Gubbi Veeranna theatre. The participants discussed various subjects. Group discussions were held on topics such as ‘Women and Political Reservation, Cultural Politics, Commodity culture, and Women’s Movement.

Vihaan- a transman, was invited to address the program as a guest. 

Brief History of the Organisation

In 2012, there was an incident of moral policing in Mangalore when a group of Hindu activists attacked a group of youngsters celebrating a birthday party. Men and women were beaten and allegedly stripped. In the same year, the Nirbhaya rape case prompted widespread agitation across the country. Thus, the Mahila Dourjanya Virodhi Vedike was formed in Mangalore. In 2013, the organisation conducted its first conference to oppose violence, inequality and gender-based oppression. After the conference, women’s rights organisations came together and formed the ‘Karnataka Rajya Mahila Dourjanya Virodhi Okkuta’. Every year they conduct a conference on International women’s day. Live streams of their programs can be accessed here.

Their demands include women’s reservation in state assemblies and parliament. 

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