13th AIDWA National Conference: Gathered Here to Fight for Dream of Fair and Just World, Says Mallika Sarabhai
Brinda Karat addressing the inaugural session. Image credit: Deshabhimani
The All India Democratic Women’s Associations’s (AIDWA) 13th national conference was inaugurated on January 6 at Trivandrum with much fanfare.
In the morning, Malini Bhattacharya, president of AIDWA, hoisted the white flag amidst a sea of nari mukti (women’s freedom) slogans. Inscribed on the flag was an image of a women with a raised fist, a red star and the motto ‘DEMOCRACY, EQUALITY, EMANCIPATION OF WOMEN’.
Bhattacharya hoisted the AIDWA flag. Image courtesy: Deshabhimani
Following the flag-hoisting, delegates placed flowers and paid homage to the founders and martyrs of the movement.
Thereafter, torches brought from 12 states – which held large pre-conference programmes – were erected at the venue.
AIDWA general secretary Mariam Dhawale pays homage to martyrs. Image courtesy: Deshabhimani
The welcome song ‘swagatham’, written and composed exclusively for the 13th AIDWA confernce, was performed in three languages – Malayalam, Hindi, and Tamil.
The chairperson of the reception committee, P K Sreemathi Teacher delivered the welcome address. She stressed on the role of the Left Democratic Front (LDF) in the emancipation of women in Kerala.
Following it, AIDWA president Bhattacharya presented the condolence resolution for activists of the women’s movements and other democratic struggles who have passed away after the previous conference in 2019.
A moment of silence for the martyrs. Image courtesy: Theekkathir
Homage was paid to Mallu Swarajyam, leader of the historic Telangana peasants’ armed struggle, and Mythili Sivaraman, one of the founding leaders of the AIDWA. It included M C Josephine, K R Gowri Amma, Bhiba Ghosh Goswami, Pramila Pandhe, Ranjana Nirula, Madhuri Barman, and V V Sarojini among others.
The inaugural address was given by political and cultural activist Mallika Sarabhai. She expressed her happiness at seeing so many women assembled in a democratic space, rather than in a masjid or mandir. She said, “We have dreamt of a fair and just world, free of poverty and inequality, and we are gathered here to fight for it.”
Mallika Sarabhai delivering the inaugural address. Image courtesy: AIDWA
Former AIDWA general secretary Brinda Karat highlighted the challenges before the women’s movement in her keynote address. She said women in this country had broken many barriers and progressed through their collective efforts, but several of the gains are under threat today.
The conference was greeted by Aleida Guevara, on behalf of the Federation of Cuban Women (FMC). In her address, she described the revolutionary role played by Cuban women. She said that the social policies of the Cuban government – such as the provision for creches, day schools, focus on nutrition, and elderly care – were a result of the work of the FMC.
Guevara, Karat, Setalvad and other leaders in the dias. Image courtesy: AIDWA
Six AIDWA activists were recognised as symbols of resistance and honoured at the inaugural session.
Sanjukta Sethi from Odisha was acknowledged for her fight against bonded labour and the oppression of microfinance institutions. Revathi from Tamil Nadu was honoured for fighting for justice after her husband was killed in police custody. Fullara Mondal, a popular leader of Lalgarh who resisted Maoist-TMC terror and was incarcerated in false cases was honoured.
Kamlesh from Haryana, who led and played an important role in the struggle of Anganwadi workers and helpers, was recognised for her struggle. Sheela from Haryana, who organised women farmers in the historic farmers’ movement on the Singhu border was credited for her contribution. V P Manziya, a dancer from Malappuram who braved communal and conservative forces and was ousted from the community for her pursuit of art was honoured.
Teesta Setalvad, who is out on bail in a case related to the 2002 Gujarat riots, greeted the AIDWA national conference. She has been time and again targeted for supporting the victims of the riot in several ways.
She said, “There are two aspects to the crimes against women. One is that the sheer barbarity of the crimes against women has grown and the voyeurism has grown. Second is the selective showcasing of the incidents where the violence is taking place is suiting the mindset and regime in power.”
The inaugural session ended with the presidential address by Bhattacharya who outlined the challenges before the AIDWA in these oppressive times.
Over 850 delegates, observers, and special invitees from 23 states attended the inaugural session.
Ahead of the national conference, three rallies were taken out by AIDWA members from Trivandrum on January 5 evening. They congregated at the Central Stadium for flag-hoisting.
Rally ahead of the AIDWA conference. Image courtesy: Theekkathir
The conference report will be placed and the participants will deliberate on it over the next three days at the MC Josephine Nagar, Tagore Theatre.
The venue is also historic for hosting the first Students’ Federation of India Conference in the year 1970.
Trivandrum is hosting the AIDWA conference for the second time, the first being 36 years ago in 1986. The AIDWA was formed in 1981.
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