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Session Report
Vibhuti Patel

The LPPYF Law and Public Policy Youth Fellowship – Cohort 2.0 Winter’23, organized by the IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute in collaboration with the Centre for Human Dignity and Development (CHDD) and the Gender Impact Studies Center (GISC), reached its culmination. This intensive one-month online program aimed to enhance law and public policy awareness through immersive training and practical internships, explicitly focusing on “Promoting Human Rights and Ending Gender-Based Violence.”

Concluding the program’s successful run, Professor Vina Vaswani, the esteemed Director of the Center for Ethics and Professor of Forensic Medicine and Toxicology at Yenepoya University, Mangalore, delivered the final address on the sixth day. During this session, fellows showcased their creative ideas through presentations, poems, musical performances, etc.

The valedictory session included a comprehensive program presentation by the organizing team and featured insightful remarks from Professor Vibhuti Patel.

Unveiling the Unsung Heroes: ASHA Workers’ Struggle for Dignity and Rights

In a moving session titled “She is ASHA,” Sparsh Choudhary shared a poignant poem that brought attention to the often-overlooked challenges faced by Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHA) and Anganwadi workers. Sparsh conveyed gratitude for the fellowship experience, elucidating that her research focused on comprehending the experiences, entitlements, and legal rights of these vital workers.

The poem, ‘She is ASHA,’ vividly depicted the struggles of ASHA didis, acknowledging their commendable efforts during the global recognition they received for their work during the Covid pandemic. Despite the accolades, Sparsh underscored the stark reality of their lives, where awards fail to address fundamental issues and the struggle to meet basic needs persists.

Presented in Hindi by Sparsh Choudhary and translated into English by Anna Usha Abraham, the verses unveiled the disparity between the government’s acknowledgment of ASHA workers’ importance and the lack of recognition as formal workers. The poem delved into the disorganized nature of their work, the absence of fixed hours, and the challenges they endure, including repercussions for asserting basic rights like maternity leave.

The session unfolded the narratives of ASHA didis as torchbearers of social and health consciousness in villages, tirelessly working with minimal financial compensation and inadequate recognition. The poem challenged societal norms that devalue the indispensable work performed by these health workers, urging a reconsideration of their significance and a commitment to securing their basic rights.

In essence, the session shed light on the struggles and sacrifices of ASHA workers, challenging prevailing norms and advocating for their rightful recognition as respected contributors to the nation’s health and well-being. The title, “Unveiling the Unsung Heroes: ASHA Workers’ Struggle for Dignity and Rights,” aptly captures the core of this impactful and enlightening session.

Harmony in Advocacy: A Musical Exploration of Civil Society’s Demands in Sexual Violence Laws

In a captivating fusion of art and advocacy, Bharti Aggarwal wove musical threads from the fabric of civil society’s fight for justice during India’s 2013 sexual violence law reforms. Her composition, steeped in mystic melodies, resonated with the demands for a society transformed, where marital rape is outlawed and legal frameworks embrace gender specificity. Aggarwal’s notes echoed the voices of those beyond the binary, urging recognition and tailored legal protections for diverse victims. This musical tapestry served as a poignant reminder that the quest for justice is a symphony, demanding sustained collaboration from the government, the public, and civil society. In Aggarwal’s resonant melody, we hear not just the echoes of past demands, but also the hopeful symphony of a future where law and society dance in harmonious accord.

Unveiling the Shadows: Women in Conflict Zones – A Journey through Histories and Realities

In a tapestry woven from lived experiences and searing truths, Aasthaba illuminated the often-silenced realities of women in conflict zones. Her essay, devoid of formal research but rich in empathy, traversed the harrowing landscapes of North East India, Gaza, and Yemen while casting a shadow back to the Partition’s hidden scars. Drawing parallels with Margo Walls’ chilling words, Aasthaba exposed sexual violence as a weaponized tool, its wounds etching not just individual bodies but entire communities. She unravelled the intricate tapestry of violence women face, woven from societal expectations, cultural norms, and the brutal threads of physical, sexual, and psychological abuse. The Partition, often painted in triumphant hues, revealed its dark underbelly as Aasthaba brought to light the untold stories of women – driven to desperation by societal pressures and the agonizing uprooting of identities. Their plight as perpetual refugees, ostracized by both abandoned and adopted families, served as a stark reminder of the conflict’s enduring tragedy. Aasthaba’s powerful questions pierced the veil of silence, challenging the normalization of violence and urging introspection on why women’s bodies become battlegrounds. The session resonated with a call for collective action, dismantling the systems that perpetuate this violence and paving the way for a future where conflict does not leave scars on the soul of humanity. In this tapestry of personal narratives and insightful analysis, Aasthaba ignited a necessary fire, demanding understanding and action for the countless women bearing the silent scars of war.

As the program concludes, Professor Vibhuti Patel appreciates the resource persons who devoted themselves to the sessions, showcasing their academic prowess and analytical insight. Recognizing the collective energy invested, she wraps up the valedictory session with a blend of sensitivity and sensibility.

Vibhuti Patel concludes the session by presenting her favourite poem, “Still I Rise”, by Maya Angelou. The poem encapsulates themes of resilience and empowerment, underscoring the idea that resilience will prevail despite efforts to undermine one’s spirit. The verses convey a potent message of self-assurance and determination in facing challenges. Vibhuti Patel’s selection of this poem mirrors a shared spirit of strength and perseverance that reverberates throughout the program.

Acknowledgment: This article was posted by Riya Pawar, a research intern at IMPRI.

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