Reimagining an Alternative Reality

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In a week’s time, we shall know the winners of the second Martha Farrell Award. Within a span of two years, the award has become a collective space for recognising and amplifying actions that seek to create a gender equal society. The geographical and sectoral reach of the Award has widened, testament to the lived realities of women’s lives and their struggle for empowerment across 22 states – from Jammu and Kashmir to Sikkim, from Assam to Gujarat, from Jharkhand to Kerala.

The Award received 147 nominations this year — 82 from individuals and 65 from organisations. There was an increase in nominations from men, and applications from private sector firms. Behind these numbers are layers of resilience and determination, telling us that the fight for equality is every day, and a reality that must be imagined by everyone.

While the individual nominations tell us stories of courage, often in the face of stiff opposition from families and communities, the 65 organisational nominees exemplify how institutional efforts need to be both inward and outward to realise gender equality. The commitment of Bhavya Chitranshi, working with tribal women in Rayagadha in Odisha, is matched by the mission of Fontal Development Foundation (FDF), an entirely women-led organisation working across 18 villages in Jharkhand, empowering dalit and tribal women. Ammachi Labs from Kerala is innovating technological solutions with rural women to achieve sustainable development. They challenge gendered division of labour by recruiting and training women as engineers, plumbers, masons and technicians. Goa-based Video Volunteers has been working with women correspondents across the country to enable them to give a gendered lens to their community issues. Yougan Tamang in Sikkim, trying to create a shift from male centric journalism to journalism from a gendered lens, finds kindred spirit in Rachna Books, a bookstore in Gangtok which has become a safe space for women (and men) to talk about issues like domestic violence and workplace sexual harassment. Specialist market agency Purple Audacity in New Delhi promotes a culture of respect, safety and equal rights within their organisation to create a safe workplace. Breakthrough from Delhi, while working on issues of women’s empowerment, also ensures that its employees and partners engage in discussions and debates on gender, sexuality and violence. Resource and Support Centre for Development (RSCD) promotes women’s political participation at the grassroots level while also ensuring women have a voice within the organisation.

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By showing us that any true commitment to gender justice starts from within, these organisational nominees re-iterate the old feminist principle of the “personal is political”. They tell us that merely recruiting women will not achieve gender balance within workplaces; women employees need to be provided with a safe and enabling environment, where they can reach their true potential. They also remind us that engaging with men is just as important, to encourage them to be true partners and practice gender equality in their personal and professional lives.

We will celebrate the diversity, strength and commitment of these individuals and organisational nominees at the Martha Farrell Award Ceremony on April 25, 2018 at Teen Murti Bhavan in New Delhi. While we can felicitate only two winners, we dedicate this Award to all our nominees, who like Martha, have continued to light up a new future and to imagine an alternative reality.

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