Every year in late October, people all over the world celebrate National Young Women’s Day of Action, an occasion that honors and encourages the political activism of young women around the globe.
At The University of Texas at Austin, the Women’s Programming Alliance, part of DDCE’s Gender and Sexuality Center, brought social justice advocate and UT alumna Rajasvini Bhansali back to campus to speak about the many acts of profound courage she’s witnessed through her work with women in India and South Africa.
Bhansali’s talk, which was entitled, “We Are All Manorama: Stories of Young Women’s Courage and Creativity from India and South Africa,” focused on the challenges that women still face and the strength and resourcefulness with which they come together to create change.
Bhansali told the story of a young Indian woman, Manorama, who was raped and murdered by local authorities for allegations of political activism. A community group of women, whose name translates to The Torch Bearers, traveled from as far as 100 miles away to speak out against the brutality. Gathered in the village, they announced that what had happened to Manorama had happened to them all. Then they disrobed themselves and stood together in solidarity for Manorama, an act of profound courage in a society where women are expected to not stand up for themselves or each other and where a woman’s naked body is considered deeply taboo.
In social landscapes where women are still routinely treated with prejudice and violence, Bhansali pointed out the importance of telling the stories of women’s triumph over abuse, fear and discrimination. She shared tales of how grassroots women’s groups were using street theatre, bicycle camps, informal mediation, and songs of solidarity to overcome deeply entrenched social injustices.
“Only in a perfect world will we not need activism,” said Muneezeh Kabir, vice president of UT Student Government, who introduced Bhansali’s talk. Bhansali’s stories reiterated that the world we live in is still very far from perfect. But, she emphasized, we all have a voice to raise in the call for justice and a hand with which to grasp and bear the torch of courage and change.
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