The Centre for Women’s studies collaborated with Dean Student’s Welfare, and Centre for the Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy at the University of Hyderabad to organize a sensitization programme, Issues and Challenges for Girls, 06th Nov 2019. The event was attended by academicians, faculty and students from various departments. Dr. G. Padmja, the Deputy Dean of the Students’ Welfare and Head of the Department of Psychology in the University greeted the dignitaries and introduced the audience to the speakers.

Prof. Rekha Pande, Director of Centre for Women’s Studies in the University introduced the theme to audience. She stated that the theme is very important as it addresses the social empowerment of the women especially, the girl child. Indian culture is an ancient culture and the patriarchal social norms are very repressive for women. It has resulted in constant clash for equal social and cultural rights in the patriarchal setup and women in the recent past have been fighting for these rights. She drew attention to the declining sex ratio of female in comparison to its counterpart male. The desire of male child in Indian society has resulted in a decline in number of females. She put forward the data from census year 1901 where there were 972 females per 1000 males and this ratio is gradually declining decade after decade, coming down to 933 by 2000. Although, medical facilities have developed rapidly after the independence, millions of girl children were killed/abandoned since the aspiration for male child is deep rooted in the culture.

She also shared her experience from the project of the Ministry of Development of Women and Child Welfare. The year 1990’s was declared for girl child empowerment leading to an elaborate project done by 16 universities. A study was done to calculate female child ratio in census to understand the gravity of the situation. She also mentioned the cultural perspective as a draw back from different regions in India. Most of the Indian states have patriarchal society, a girl child is not welcome, and people shed tears on their birth while the birth of male child is the cause of celebration in family. Moreover, girl child is considered burden to the family in numerous ways due to social customs like dowry. This situation is very grave in most of Asian countries like China, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. She further stated that this sensitization programme is of huge relevance since making laws is not the only solution to regulate the society, but social awakening is necessary to eradicate such social stigmas. It is imperative to change the understanding of the people irrespective of their class, caste and gender because these social norms are practiced by everybody in society. The endeavor of this event is not only to create a social discourse on these issues but also to seek solutions to them and effectively execute these changes for the betterment of the society.

Prof. R. Sarraju, Dean of Student’s Welfare put forward the opening remarks for the Sensitization Programme. He drew attention on human behavior and emphasized the need to study the social behavior patterns and controls to understand how it can lead to various emotional and other behavioral disorders in girls. He further opines that rather than dictating girls with the list of Do’s and Don’ts, a change in the mindset of the people and behavior is required.  He said effort must be made to eradicate the non-rational things that are the real cause of the various social problems in the society. This sensitization is a process of social learning in a progressive environment which is required for the personality development especially in the adolescent girls. These kinds of events are essential as sensitizing boys and men is also needed for the appropriate social behavior.

The Chief Guest of the event Prof. O. Joyti, Dean of School of Management Science addressed the audience. She talked about her 20 years of long association with the women and sensitization programme. She mentioned that her present Post- Doctoral research is on the sensitization of men and women.  She quoted an example from her work in Mandavi village in South India that it’s very common in villages for women and girls to work in various production activities such as gazing the cattle in fields, being part of the self-help groups that are in milk production through the dairy cooperative. This work is very crucial for them to earn their livelihood.  However, the basic mundane in the morning for the males in village is to sit outside their houses, drink alcohol and boss the female members of their family.

Prof. Rekha Pande introduced the first speaker Prof. T. Malati, a past president of ACBI, presently one of the Directors of Krebs Biochemical and Industries Limited in Andhra Pradesh. She is a former senior Professor and head of department of Biochemistry, Nizam’s Institute of Medical Sciences, at Hyderabad. She served as one of the experts for National Task force “Indian Normative Clinical Laboratory Parameters (INCLAP)” a mega project set up by ICMR, New Delhi. Dr. Malati did PhD in Biochemistry in 1975 from Institute of Medical Science, BHU, Varanasi for work related to monoclonal gammapathies.

Prof. Malati discussed about Conception to Birth and Infancy and spoke about the different forms of female feticide i.e. Infanticide and Neo natal feticide and female infanticide. She said that the main pattern behind Infanticide is selective abortion of girl child. She further said that the wide gap between the sex ratio of male and female is much worse in countries like Liechtenstein, China and Armenia. In India a sharp gap in male and female ratio can be seen from the census of year 2003, the ratio then being 933 females per 1000 males and in 2011 it rose to 940 per 1000 males. However, if we compare this ratio with pre-independent India, the situation was much better with 972 females per 1000 males in year 1901. It clearly indicates that the status of women in the society as well as family has declined with time irrespective of the fact that we got independence. She mentioned how various religious, cultural beliefs resulted in desire to have a male child. In Indian families it is believed that male child will carry the legacy of the family. So, women are under constant pressure to give birth to a male child. Indian culture idolizes the birth of a male child and considers it a matter of celebration. This thought is deep rooted in the heats and mind of people irrespective of caste and class. Dr. Malati also mentioned about the social behavior of the people towards the birth of girl child because they have to pay dowry at the time of girl’s marriage which also resulted in unwelcoming the girl child in family.. She stressed on the need of holding more sensitization programmes for generating social awareness.   

Dr. G. Padmaja, Deputy Dean of Student’s Welfare introduced the second speaker of the session Mr. Anuradha Pulle and Vaneja Mani. Ms Anuradha is qualified and experienced in the areas of finance, business development and technology adoption. Over the years, she has combined her educational qualifications, technical skills and passion for teaching to deliver effective learning experiences for audience across the spectrum. At Ananya- Women@Work, she is deeply involved with PoSH consulting, effective content development and impactful delivery, as well as brand management.

Ms Anuradha drew attention towards career opportunities for women. Women today are working in fields of science, social science, humanities and others. She tried to highlight gender-based opportunities in various fields and contribution of women in economy. She is also concentrating on S.W.O.T. analysis. She focused her argument on the classification of jobs women are pursuing making them economically empowered and indirectly resulting in increase of their purchasing power parity. She is of the opinion that in corporate firms where women are part of the higher management are more into welfare work and giving up to 20% of their profit into it. Ms. Anuradha defined the S.W.O.T. analysis in the context of career opportunities for females where she mentioned that one should know her Strengths and it’s ideal to focus on them like education qualification, networking skills and upgrading skills time to time. The second thing one should keep a check on is Weaknesses, to overcome them with their strengths. Women must keep looking for opportunities to grow further by enhancing skills, having career counseling, develop leadership qualities to achieve leadership positions in company.

Dr. Rani Ratna Prabha introduced the 3rd speaker of the event, Ms Meera Marthi. Meera calls herself a ‘corporate dropout’ after working in the IT industry for 18 years. Her last stint in the corporate world was that of the Global Head – HR for Apps Associates. She is an ICF certified Life and Executive Coach. Meera found her calling when she with two other like-minded people founded, Where are India’s Children, an NGO to address the challenges and work towards finding sustainable solutions for child welfare in India. Meera is responsible for the Safe Surrender Campaign in the Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. WAIC also conducts campaigns to spread awareness about the child welfare system in India.

Ms. Meera introduced the Safe Surrender Campaign’s significance on how the child abandoned by the family or the relatives are never usually adopted. Mostly in cases of abandonments, police recover the child and they usually end up in orphanage or are institutionalized in some or the other way. These children never get into the adoption pool and don’t receive the opportunity to be raised like normal children in a family that fulfills their emotional needs too. People have a lot of social stigmas around such abandoned children, even educated people are part of the category. One of the major causes of such stigma is lack of awareness around the issue. There has been no research or study conducted on such type of social issues. Mostly, people don’t have the awareness about any type of agency that exists. She said there is also lack of knowledge about the legal procedures that government made for adoption. The rough data that is available for 2007 states that in India 3500 children were available from adoption however only 71 of them were infants while rest were children up to the age of 12. Another social myth is that a child of younger age is easier to raise after adoption and a child of older age is not desired. The key motives that result in child left alone are: if both the parents of a child die, relatives give away the child.  There are cases of illegal adoption sometime in lieu of monetary gain by poor parents. Although, safe surrender attempts to find a family for its healthy development. However, there are different kinds of challenges being faced by the couples in process of adoption and in selection of child. Simultaneously, those parents who seek adoption also have some prejudice like they want infant child and aspiration includes that the facial features of infant and color must look like his/her adoptive parents. There are some other myths associated with couples like only childless couple look for such alternative, older child is not good for adoption, one should not disclose about the adoption to the child.  Usually people consider adoption as a charitable deed, however the safe surrender motive is to change the mindset of the people as well and provide them proper guidance, consultation during the process and above all to provide a child safe family to grow up. Safe surrender is attempting to help out children to meet families and couples through a proper legal process and consultation.

Thereafter, the session was open for queries, discussion and suggestions put forward by the students and faculty members.

The event concluded with valedictory note delivered by Dr. Rani Ratna Prabha. She conveyed vote of thanks to the chief guest, dignitaries and professors for their presence at the event to enlighten the students and research scholars with the intricacies of the issues related with girls and women. Indeed! Women are needed to be empowered and such sensitization programmes are required for fighting the patriarchal ideology to make society safer, healthy and progressive for everybody irrespective of gender. Rizwan (Research Scholar) covered the entire programme extensively with his photography to capture memorable moments from the event.

Report prepared by, Dr. Manu Jayas, Post-Doctoral Fellow, Department of History

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