In solidarity, for a noble cause

In solidarity, for a noble cause

Robust Activism

When one recalls names of women who have been awarded the Nobel Prize, the first name that comes to mind is that of Mother Teresa (1979 Nobel Peace Prize)! She was recognised for her yeoman efforts to tackle poverty, sickness and distress, all threats to peace, and alleviate the lot of the lowly and the marginalised.

Years later, women of steel – Jody Williams and Shirin Ebadi too were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997 and 2003 respectively. Jody Williams, a US citizen won the award for her work to ban landmines through the International Campaign to ban landmines. While Shirin Ebadi, the first female judge of Iran and the first Muslim woman to receive the Nobel Peace prize, is a well known rights activist fighting for the rights of women, children and political prisoners in Iran. The two veterans bound by their common cause, however, continue to struggle to end gender violence and create a just and equitable environment for women.  

“We have been making strides but the backlash is immense,” said Williams when recently in the city for ‘International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict’. Sharing her views on the immense amount of money spent on military by the United States government she emphasised that “Women need to be taken seriously when deciding on security. We need to make governments focus on women’s peace and security because in reality that isn’t happening.”   

This wasn’t shocking when Ebadi started narrating the events in the Middle East during the dictatorship. “Men started raping women who came out on the streets to make the streets insecure for them. Now that the dictators have left, we expect a better situation,” she said with high hopes for positive results in future.    

Both the Nobel Laureates spoke about the issue of ‘How Women are Mobilising to End Violence Against Women and Transform the World” at the event organised by women’s rights organisation Breakthrough. 

“We are here in solidarity with our Indian sisters, to share our own experiences as grassroots and international activists and to learn from the fearless activists on the front lines of India’s women’s movement,” said Williams. Her statement came as a strong support for Indian women, especially in the wake of the fact that ‘every day 92 women are raped in India’, according to India’s National Crime Bureau.  

Ebadi dwelled on the issue of patriarchal societies and spoke about the atrocities perpetrated on women and people in general who do not adhere to the government. She also stated that in India, “Women do not have as many problems due to law, as due to culture. So many Indian women are victimised by their in-laws for dowry? It
is not that the Indian law doesn’t support them, but solutions depend on locations.

 International society should help and support local NGOs so that the local problems can be made international.”
  In the same vein Williams added, “The people of India are turning their outrage at these crimes into powerful activism. Right now, students in Jadavpur are protesting against sexual violence and police brutality on their campus. All around the country, activists are mobilising for change like never before.”

The event was live streamed across the world. Witnessing the Nobel Laureates speak in person, one remembers that when Mother Teresa was awarded, she refused the conventional ceremonial banquet given to laureates and asked that the US$192,000 fund be given to the poor in India. Maybe, that is why we still remember her.