The 19 national conference of the National Federation of Indian Women (NFIW) got under way on Wednesday with Magsaysay award-winner Aruna Roy stressing on a fundamental role for the organisation in establishing that women’s non-participation in public life could seriously affect their well-being.
In her presidential address, she said the adverse process could be stemmed only if women across classes realised their urgent and important role outside family and overcame restrictions of social mores.
“Not merely as earners and providers of supplementary income, but as equal participants in political processes that affect and shape our lives. Mobilisations, small and large which create both awareness and establish the need for collective formations, are the beginning of political awareness. The greatest need is for women to consciously to do so, because it could help in the participation of all marginalised groups. This has to be, however, rooted in an understanding that all action must arise out of the principles of equality, justice and peace,” she said.
The biggest threat to equality, she said, was the blitzkrieg by neo-liberal globalisation and it attacked women at the bottom of the pile.
“The ravages of the attacks on natural resources by industries, the displacement of thousands of people, women uprooted from traditional and acceptable social milieus to a harsh and exploitative new context, are too well-known for reiteration,” she added.
She also touched upon the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Projects (KKNPP), saying it was a good example of the need for wider involvement. “The position of the government is fraught with contradictions,” she said, contending that on the one hand, the Centre kept information under wraps because it was security-related, but on the other, it said it was peaceful use of nuclear energy to generate electricity.
Former IAS officer and chairman of the reception committee Qudsia Gandhi said women’s forums should not be made first-aid centres for the affected and victims, but should be avant-garde taking pre-emptive steps to stop social customs directed against women and male chauvinistic intimidation.
Earlier, Ms Aruna Roy hoisted the flag of the organisation. Educationist Vasanthi Devi, All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA) general secretary Sudha Sundararaman were present.