Winterim program explores feminist issues in India

Global Feminisms in India to return winter of 2017



Mary Gillis, Sara Hansen, Kailee Delveaux, Aubrey Yeager and Heather Spray visit the Taj Mahal in Agra, India on the Global Feminisms in India program.

Story by Lauren French, Copy Editor

Delhi, India, a city with 25 million people, uses the metro as its main source of transportation.

When UW-Eau Claire senior Sara Hansen went to Delhi for a Winterim study abroad program called Global Feminisms in India, she noticed something strange about the train accommodations: each train had one car dedicated strictly to female use.

“I was kind of put off by it, and kind of angry,” Hanson said. “I was thinking, ‘why is there an all women’s car? Why can’t there be integrated subway rides?’”

After a week of living in Delhi, Hansen understood the truth: gender-separate cars are for safety.  According to the India Tribune, New Delhi has the highest number of sex crimes among India’s major cities.

Hansen was one of twelve students to visit Delhi last January as part of the Global Feminisms in India program.  The program aims to foster a transnational experience and educate students on the history of feminist issues in India.

Along with a three-week course on women and politics in India, the Eau Claire and Miranda House students worked with four Non-governmental Organizations outside the classroom.  Women’s Studies Program Director and co-leader of the Winterim program Asha Sen said this is where the most valuable learning took place.

“They could see what they learned in the classroom play out in the lives of these girls and women,” Sen said.  “The most exciting thing was the friendships that were made.”

Eau Claire participants studied alongside students from the Miranda House Women’s College of Delhi University, which ranks fifth out of 2,060 colleges in India, according to India Today’s 2014 annual Nielsen survey.

While Miranda House is highly prestigious and difficult to get into – students need to have GPAs in the ninety-seventh percentile – the cost of tuition is not very expensive.  Sen said this gave Eau Claire students the opportunity to interact with Indian women who worked hard for their education, regardless of their background.

“You have to undo a lot of your assumptions,” Sen said. “Students go into countries like India thinking, ‘we’ll go there and teach them to be better, or rescue them.’  They actually came away saying… (Miranda House students) are really thoughtful, they’re really articulate and they’re really competitive.”

Hansen said her favorite part of the trip was getting to know the Miranda House students, and that it changed her perspective on her own education in Eau Claire.

“It made me want to take advantage of every single opportunity I have here, because it’s invaluable,” Hansen said.  “Not everybody gets the chance.”

While one half of the program’s goal is to urge more Eau Claire students to study abroad, the second half strives to encourage Miranda House students to study at Eau Claire.

The Global Feminisms in India program will run every other year; the next trip is set for winter of 2017.  Ideally, Sen said the years Eau Claire does not send students to Delhi would be the years Miranda House students come here.

Sen hopes to bring four people from Miranda House to Eau Claire this fall – Dr. Bijayalaxmi Nanda, Dr. Pushpa Kumari and two students, to discuss the potential for more collaboration and learning between Eau Claire and Miranda House.

Students who participated in the Global Feminisms in India program will present a Roundtable on transnational feminisms from 1 to 2 p.m. Wednesday, March 18 in Hibbard 379.