Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Inauguration of 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence hosted by GaIDI Scholars

Inspired by Amnesty International's toolkit, palm impressions were organized at the event, symbolizing solidarity with those working against gender violence

At the Women’s Studies Research Center (WSRC), GaIDI Scholars hosted a synergy event inaugurating the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence at Brandeis University. The event titled “Gender Violence Knows no Boundaries” was coordinated by Rajashree Ghosh, WSRC Visiting Scholar. GaIDI’s efforts at collaboration with the Gender Working Group (GWG) at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management have reached very exciting proportions and this event is representative of that very effort.

Shulamit Reinharz, Director, WSRC Director addressed the huge gathering of students, faculty and Scholars and welcomed participants to the Center. Dr. Reinharz expressed serious concern about gender violence that it is all-pervasive and is a violation of basic human rights.

Kelley Ready, Associate Director of Academics Sustainable International Development (SID) Program at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management reiterated her keen interest in further collaborations with the WSRC. She also launched the Brandeis Gender and Development Forum Newsletter (B-GAD)and the first copies were presented to Shulamit Reinharz and Brenda McSweeney who is a Resident Scholar, WSRC and has had the honor of being part of the Heller faculty during the Fall semester.

Members of GWG presented a Poster Session, and Open Discussion event. Roberta Salper, WSRC, Visiting Scholar moderated the session. The presentations offered glimpses of countries around the world and their dealing with violence against women. Presentations were made by the following SID students:

Angélique K. Rwiyereka (MSc International Health and Policy and Management) focused on Rwanda and the issue to gender and violence in a conflict ridden country;

Diah Irawaty (MA, SID) spoke on domestic workers and their plight in Indonesia. Her slides and poster that traced the definitions of ground level activities with respect to domestic workers;

Nadia Behboodi (MA, SID) presented her slides on the severe acts of violence against women in Afghanistan;

Muqaddisa Mehreen (MA, SID), presented her slides on women from farms to convention halls with haunting music from Pakistan;

Stephen Lee (MA, SID) presented his slides and film clip on Indonesia and touched on aspects of gender, vulnerability and environment in Indonesia;

Shamila Daluwatte presented her slides on labor rights in Sri Lanka and has been involved with women's rights and activism and spoke about her prior work experience with the International labor Organization

Two local community groups viz., Refuge Education, Advocacy and Change or REACH ( and Kol Isha ( who work in the area of domestic violence participated in the event. Gladys Maida (REACH) and Elana Premack Sandler (Kol Isha) represented their respective organizations. Elana spoke on the “Clothes Line Project.” Gladys introduced to the gathering Detective David Mc Gann from the Waltham Police Department to speak on how law enforcement deals with domestic violence. A subsequent session of discussions and questions ensued.

For pictures taken by Rajashree Ghosh and Sanjeeta Negi, MA/ SID, please visit :

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Brenda Gael McSweeney Shares a Glimpse of Action-Research near Shantiniketan

Last month, Brenda gave a brief description of gender research initiated with colleagues in West Bengal, India, on their programs for self-reliant development. She first became involved in 1998 as the United Nations Development Programme representative providing support to Srihaswani, or “Creative manual skills for self-reliant development,” in West Bengal, India. This is the brainchild of development thinkers and activists Krishno and Chandana Dey and Shantum Seth.

This year the research of Brenda and Chandana with the latter’s Project Team focused on non-formal education. Brenda described some of the changes she had observed since she first visited the area.

A spate of progressive legislation has been enacted in India, ranging from 100 days of guaranteed work at the minimum wage in rural areas to mid-day school meal schemes, plus recent pace-setting provisions against domestic violence against women and child labor. It was fascinating for Chandana and Brenda to hear directly from women in the villages where different groups constitute the majority of the population – Hindu, Muslim and Santhal (tribal) – as to the actual impact of such measures at the grassroots level. Receiving “top marks” from the women was the employment guarantee scheme.

According to Chandana Dey, one of the most challenging issues that the villagers have been addressing with the Project Team is finding ways of getting children to attend school and other government-run programs such as the “Anganwadi” where mothers and children under six are given nutrition supplements. The women both forfeit work and face the dangers of travel with youngsters during the monsoon season. Hence the Team initiated pre-school activities right in the least advantaged neighborhoods. This approach tallies with UNESCO’s emphasis on the importance of early childhood education in its 2007 report monitoring global progress towards ‘Education for All.’

And once ‘hidden’ women were both visible and vocal, reflected in the snap above in a village outside of Shantiniketan, articulating their views on a range of development issues while attending an interactive gathering. Some of the women grew up in the same village where they later married. In their view, today, many things have improved including more access to education and work opportunities.