Study Abroad program from India brings new ideas about feminism to campus

Miranda House exchange highlights global feminism efforts

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Study Abroad program from India brings new ideas about feminism to campus

Photo by Elizabeth Gosling

Photo by Elizabeth Gosling

Photo by Elizabeth Gosling

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Feminist activists of different cultures are making connections across the world.

Last spring, 12 students from UW-Eau Claire traveled to India during Winterim to learn about feminism issues in India. While there, Eau Claire students worked alongside students at an all-women college called Miranda House. Now, two Miranda House professors and two students are continuing the exchange this fall.

On Sept. 29, the visitors from Miranda House gave a presentation entitled “Women, Communalism and Religious Violence.” Professors Jayashree Pillai and Bijayalaxmi Nanda and graduate students Srushti Bratia and Deepti Sharma are in Eau Claire for part of the exchange between the Miranda House and Eau Claire.

Part of the presentation included time left aside for group discussion. Students from women’s studies and political science courses discussed issues minorities face. Gender stratification and lower pay for women were among topics discussed.

The Miranda House is a prestigious university in New Delhi. Although it is difficult to become admitted, women do not pay a high price to attend. This gives students who work hard the opportunity to attend a school that rewards them for what they have accomplished, Asha Sen, co-leader of last year’s program, said last spring.

According to the India Tribune, sex crimes are among the highest in New Delhi, where Miranda House is located. Sexes were kept separate in certain areas, like train cars, in order to keep  women safe. Legal measures are being taken because of women’s activism and the focus on women’s safety, Nanda said.

“Politicians can’t say ‘no’ now,” Nanda said.

As a result, conditions have changed in some ways, she said.

The exchange program started during Winterim of the last school year and is planned to continue during the future semesters. During the years that Eau Claire students do not go to India, Miranda House students will come here.

The Global Feminism program focuses on educating students about the history of the feminist movement in India.

Continuing the exchange program “encourages learning across countries,” Nanda said. “It is important to build links and solidarities that go beyond academics.”

“Students are really happy so far,” Nanda said. “… they wish for more student coordination.”

With different perspectives, students can acknowledge we come with multiple identities. Being a certain religion, having certain biological traits, political beliefs and social status tells more about a person compared to what meets the eye, Nanda said.

“We have to continue fighting for women’s rights,” Nanda said. “Our stereotypes should be defied, and women of all races should no longer be seen as passive.”

Nanda said Eau Claire students have been positive so far.

“Eau Claire’s response to the exchange has been very good,” Nanda said. “Students from the colored community are very supportive.”

The Vice Chancellor also works with the Miranda House effort.

“We are here to learn from each other.” Nanda said.

Her plan is to bring group work and new teaching methods when she returns to India, Nanda said.

Nanda also said collaborating with the women’s studies and political science departments will affirm the feminist beliefs in society and the duty of young leaders to strive to change traditions.

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