I was sitting alone in my office room. There was a storm going on in my head! Our office circulated a rule to cut a day’s salary if a faculty is 15 minutes late along with other directives in the line of how long one should stay in the office … all these rules ignoring the intellectual freedom an academic requires. On top of that, I had a personal negative encounter with authorities presenting the dissatisfaction of mine and many others. They referred to this as illegal.
This is when I saw the call for application to join a month-long course on Gender, Sustainable Livelihoods, Human Rights, and Peace, offered by Sangat – the South Asian Feminist network. I filled up the online application form with all my emotions to get out of the office space for a month. Yes, I got in.
What did I know about patriarchy before? Almost nothing about the systematic inequalities – I knew what I saw at surface level, about things that impacted me. But the whole structures that invades all was not clear to me before. It’s the societal structure that we accept, strive for being better for others; finding no time, space or effort for self as a woman. It’s not just a woman – it’s a south Asian woman, having loving families who would love you hard to tie you up!
The lectures would start boiling your blood with anger, frustration and often hope. It started with problems but slowly got into solution space. I realized being in a network – a strong team to make changes possible. There is much more to do, a lot to talk about. I started reading Deepa Narayan’s book named “Chup” alongside the course – another eye opener on how women are systematically silenced in the name of love.
The classes were different. It involved waking up before the sun on the open roof – promising to take good care of myself with Kamla Ji. Sharing meals with friends through lively discussions. Running back and for the lectures, discussions and thought provoking movies. Often days would end up with dancing, singling and yes, a loud feminist laughter.
What made the one month long course special was the people around me. A room full of people, all of them eager to work for equality. All experienced with fighting against the wind, able to hope for better days regardless of what one has experienced was the best learning part for me. Every resource person came with their heavy lessons and lightened them up with hope. Every Sangati would cry along with others who have suffered pain and struggles on their journey forgetting their own one.
I am ready to work for equality. It’s a long way, its not an easy way but a way worth exploring in a life time.
Love you Sangat.
On my way to USA
Attending Grace Hopper Conference for Women in Computing
30th September, 2019
This piece was written by Nova Ahmed who attended the 24th Sangat Month Long Course in 2019.