Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Walls women make, walls that keep women inside

The most amazing thing in the news in the last 24 hours has been the Wall of Women across Kerala: Vanitha Mathil.

In case you are like me and you are sometimes so absorbed in something you miss big headlines, here are some links to catch you up:

The day's action culminated in the entry of two women into Sabarimala. 

Should women be excluded from anything? No, no one should be excluded anywhere. Having stated this, I have always thought--(1) why would I want to go somewhere where I am not wanted? and (2) what is the meaning of 'going' anywhere if the divine is everywhere? But I do understand this particular struggle is about fighting exclusion and it is about challenging taboos that are deeply embedded in our hearts and minds, and consequently, lives. 

Today, as the temple authorities closed the temple to purify the premises after two women of menstruating age had visited, many have equated menstrual and gender-based taboos to untouchability. They have a strong point. 

But what boggles my mind as I write this is the mobilization of so many women. They came out to uphold their right to enter a temple and either politics or faith brought them out to the streets. It is so hard to get people to come to anything, to take a public stand, to join a protest, that just the mobilization of hundreds of thousands of women is intrinsically remarkable. 

What will happen after this? Joining a protest is exciting and it's empowering. Will these women join in other protests? How many will become a little more vocal at home? How many will encouragowering to feel that you can make a difference when you get together in large numbers--large numbers that are possible because you joined. How many of these women will continue on to take pae their daughters to learn about public affairs and to take a stand? 

What a magical opening to the year in a country declared 'no place for women'! How can we sustain this mobilization and draw the same women into other critical political and policy conversations?

Women forming a wall make an impressive picture. How do we break the walls that keep them from seeking public activism on a regular basis? 

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