Kamla Bhasin, who passed away in wee hours of Saturday, was a social scientist, development professional, poet, author and a stalwart of women’s movement in India and South Asia who advocated gender equality in every walk of life. Throughout her life she has been engaged with issues like female education, equality of sexes, development and empowerment. She began her work on gender back in 1970’s. She articulated association between matters such as human rights, identity politics, democracy and gender. She continued to contribute to the society through sensitization workshops, capacity building programmes and other participatory events on various gender issues. Her association and work with South Asian feminist network Sangat, which has trained several women on gender issues has made positive contribution to women’s movement in South Asia. To talk about her take on feminism she finds women’s oppression in both religious fundamentalism and capitalist patriarchy.
Through her work she made an impact on lives of many women to make them empowered and question their oppression in public and in private spaces. Her revolutionary writings in form of poems and slogans on various issues have taken the women’s movement to another level in creating awareness about oppressive social customs and practices of society and questioning national policy decisions. She also authored numerous books on gender issues and on gender concepts which has enriched the feminist literature immensely. Books like Exploring masculinity, Understanding gender, What is patriarchy, Towards empowerment and many more are her writings which gave a clear understanding about various concepts and how they have impacted lives of many. She wrote comprehensively on gender issues and highlighted how feminism is not a war between sexes i.e men and women but a clash of ideologies.
Her demise has created a void in the struggles for gender equality and women’s movement in India and South Asia. She has influenced generations and her contribution to society, to gender justice and women’s rights can never be overlooked. If we could be able to positively impact even one woman around us by any way that will be the utmost tribute to her. Few lines from her poem ‘Because I am a Girl, I Must Study’
To know right from wrong, I must study.
To find a voice that is strong, I must study
To write feminist songs I must study
To make a world where girls belong, I must study.
Because I am a girl, I must study.
Sarah Kidwai has a doctorate in gender studies. She has been involved in gender sensitisation programmes. She was an intern at National Commission Women, New Delhi.