Written by Programme Manager – Imen
I have just come back from attending the Maitri Network national conference called “Women Speaking from the Margins: Activism, Resistance and Agency” which was held in Pune on 27th and 28th November. Over 250 delegates attended and included Karuna partners, survivors of domestic and sexual violence, academics and various other civil society organisations.
The event was a real eye opener. In addition to the most commonly discussed issues of domestic and sexual violence and child marriage, speakers addressed other less talked about topics such as the plight and struggles of single Dalit women who are widowed, divorced or unmarried and the forms of implicit and insidious violence they get subjected to. This was particularly poignant for me to hear as we often tend to forget that violence is not just physical, and that there are other forms of covert violence that can be as destructive and damaging if not more.
Sexual harassment in the workplace was another topic of discussion which highlighted the shocking prevalence of such incidences not only in the informal but also the formal sector, and the various hurdles women have to face when they report incidences of harassment. What was particularly sad to hear was the level of covert intimidation women face from the very people who are supposed to ensure their protection, thus highlighting the huge gap between legislation and procedural implementation in practice.
Honour killings, caste based sexual exploitation, the additional challenges faced by Muslim and Adivasi women were also discussed, and together with all the other issues raised, formed part of the Pune Declaration (a set of resolutions and demands) which was agreed by all delegates at the end of the 2 day consultation.
But beyond the excellent presentations and discussions, what was heart warming to witness was the palpable sense of buoyancy and renewed energy among the Maitri network partners, and the renewed sense of faith and hope in the ability and role of the Network in tackling the challenges that still lie ahead in order to end all forms of violence against women and girls from marginalised communities.