Monday, November 6, 2017

My Grand-Father’s Russian Family by Chandana Dey

While the biography cum memoir I’m researching is about my Russian grand-mother, née Kotya Jonas, a lot has now come to light about my grand-father, Nitai Gopal de Sarkar. This year- that is also the 100th anniversary of the October Revolution of 1917- that was to have such a momentous impact on the life of my Russian grand-mother and her family- is the year I decided to ‘retire’ from pressing engagements and devote myself ‘entirely’ to research on family history and archives. I planned to write mostly from my rural idyll in Santiniketan (Bengal, India) where my grand-parents acquired a plot of land from the Visva-Bharati University and built themselves a small house.
Irene and Mamlu
Photo Credit: Laurent (husband of Irene)
Two meetings in 2017 have proved fortuitous in shaping the direction of the book: I discovered an ‘aunt’ who is a photo-archivist and anthropologist and who lives in Paris. Irène Jonas is the daughter of my grand-uncle, my grand-mother’s youngest brother, Serge. Irène and I not only exchanged letters and photographs but we also met this summer in London and found so many things in common, while trying to unearth our joint family history. The photograph of the Jonas family taken in the summer of 1934 (my mother looks about three years old) is from her family collection.

My Grand-father's Russian Family
Standing: Kotya, Zyga (Kotya's older brother), Maya (my mother), Tina (Kotya's older sister),
Serge (Kotya's younger brother and father of Irene), Nitai
Sitting: Varvara (Kotya's mother), lady in white hair (unidentified), David Jonas (Kotya's father)
Photo Credit: Irene Jonas Family Collection
Later this summer, I met a charming young Swiss couple- Sophie and Diego who had come to Santiniketan for a few weeks on a community-health survey of Santal villagers and their food habits. Sophie is a Doctor of Opthalmology and Diego makes specialized microscopes for surgery.

I found them both to be extremely willing to help further my research into unraveling my grand-parents’ past life, part of which was spent in Switzerland in the 1920s and 1930s. Diego recommended I look into the digital holdings of the Swiss newspaper, Le Temps that has recently digitalized its 200 years of archival materials. Sophie wrote off to the Archives of the University of Geneva asking whether they had any information regarding a student who would have graduated from the University of Geneva around 1930.  

Archives, as other things, are most punctiliously kept in Switzerland. Sitting in my cottage in Santiniketan, I was able to delve into my grand-parents’ past, recover documents I had thought lost forever, and piece together some part of their life’s journey. My grand-mother, Kotya Jonas, would have come to Switzerland in 1922, along with her family from Russia. My grand-father did his first degree in medicine from Kolkata and then went to Paris for three trimesters. He then asked to be transferred to the University of Geneva where his final degree was conferred on him. He also wrote his thesis in French. He even applied to Edinburgh to do an FRCP- but since I only have an application letter dated in 1929, I assume that he did not manage to follow up with this decision. I think my grandparents met in 1930 and married soon after, and my mother was born on 19 June 1931.

The documents, punctiliously collected by the Archivist at the University of Geneva were sent to Sophie who sent them onto me. I think I was so stunned that I could not even thank her properly- so moved at seeing these letters written almost nine decades ago.

Nitai and Ketaki Sarkar (Dadu and Dida)
Photo Credit: Anil and
Rani Chanda Family Collection
My grand-father not only acquired a Russian wife; he also gained an entire family. The photograph only speaks of good times- but there must have been heartbreak when Kotya decided to leave for India with her five- year old daughter and make India her home. This family photograph might have been one of the last occasions when Kotya wore a dress. At this time, my grand-father was practicing as a rural doctor in the Canton de Vaud with my grand-mother doubling up as his nurse. It seemed to be a satisfying life. What then made my grand-father decide to come back to India?

My grand-father returned to his home country after a decade outside India. He brought his Russian wife, a Mem’, and his five year old daughter, Maya. Unfortunately, his doctorate from the University of Geneva was never recognized in an India that valued only degree holders from the UK. My grand-father had chosen not to study in England, because this was a colonial power and India was governed, not free. Ironically, he returned after a decade abroad, to find this colonial mentality unchanged. This did not embitter him. He retained his ‘joie de vie’ and family photographs invariably show my grand-parents, side by side in quiet contentment. My grand-father was such a good man, a brilliant doctor who had mastered a foreign language sufficiently to write his thesis in it. In India, where academic qualifications matter so much, I just wish that family lore would have included his achievements en par with other illustrious family members.                                                                                                                ~ Chandana Dey

Chandana Dey is a Founding Member of the UNESCO/UNITWIN Network on Gender, Culture & People-Centered Development; and Former Editor, Social Science Press, New Delhi       

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

25th Anniversary of the UNESCO/UNITWIN Programme!

Happy to share that UNESCO marked the 25th Anniversary of its UNESCO/UNITWIN (University Twinning and Networking) Programme on October 31st  2017 with a high level event in Paris.

Our Network was invited to participate. Key activities of the UNESCO Chairs and Network Programmes around the globe were presented in a video display at the gathering. Here is a slide that depicts main current activities and future plans of our UNESCO/UNITWIN Network on Gender, Culture & People-Centered Development aimed at helping achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

The 25th Anniversary event took stock of decades of the UNESCO/UNITWIN Program achievements and celebrated the commitment of academics, students, civil society organizations and other partners around the globe.

The glimpse at the road ahead envisioned contributions of higher education to achieving the goals of the Education 2030 Agenda. Our Network anchored at Boston University's Women's, Gender, & Sexuality Studies Program focused on Sustainable Development Goal 5 on achieving gender equality.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Unbound Visual Arts: Fifth Anniversary!

You are invited to join Unbound Visual Arts (UVA) to mark its 5th Anniversary! The festive occasion will feature Danielle Legros Georges, the Poet Laureate of Boston. The celebrations will take place on November 9th, 2017 starting at 6:00 pm in the Josephine A. Fiorentino Community Center at the Charlesview Residences, Brighton. It promises to be a memorable evening filled with music, fine art and refreshments!

The Josephine A. Fiorentino Community Center is at the Charlesview Residences, 123 Antwerp St, Brighton, MA 02135. The event is free and open to the public.

Danielle Legros Georges - Photo credit: Priscilla Harmel
More on Danielle Legros Georges, Poet Laureate of Boston, on UVA's website – drawn from the Lesley University website:

"What does it mean to be Poet Laureate of the City of Boston? For Lesley University professor Danielle Legros Georges, the role comes with great responsibility. As a citywide advocate for language and the arts, she’s been charged with "raising the status of poetry" in the minds of Bostonians.

Through public readings and events, she’s pushing the community to connect with poetry in new ways, and to view it as a tool for empowerment. “Poetry is important because it allows us access to other minds, other experiences,” says the Poet Laureate. “It allows for empathy. It carries knowledge, and it’s a space in which one can make the self.”

Danielle's recent publications include City of Notions (2017), an anthology of Boston poems featuring several poets, Letters From Congo, and The Dear Remote Nearness of You.

Letters from Congo (2017) is a powerful collection by Haitian-American poet Danielle Legros Georges, invites readers to journey every air mile traveled by a family trying to survive the perpetual uncertainty of life in exile. In these 13 intimate poems, written as letters, an address, a physical location where someone can be reached, swiftly morphs into a statement about the delicate nature of voicing one’s political opinions under the Duvalier regime. (At UVA, drawn from

The Dear Remote Nearness of You (2016) "speaks [of] poetry's origin in new and startling ways. This is the precise intelligence that knows it must step carefully across the light on the surface of the water... These poems form the contiguous dance of language choosing its own body at will, traveling across light and the dimensions of unarticulated history. This is the word rubbed onto the palimpsest of our being, the careful solo soprano in the space where music ends and poetry moves in to name what is eternal and what is only in the abbreviation of now. What a delightful book from Boston's Poet Laureate."—Afaa Michael Weaver (At UVA)

UVA also shared that performing at the event will be April Marion, a twenty-two year-old artist and musician based in Boston. She graduated Summa Cum Laude from Berklee College of Music in 2015. Her love for both art and music have since transpired into her passions and profession. She is a multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, drummer and performer. She has also won multiple awards for her art and her work.

April Marion - Photo credit:
Promotional sponsors: 
-UNESCO/UNITWIN Network on Gender, Culture & People-Centered Development based at Boston University
-Brandeis University's Gender and International Development Initiatives of the Women's Studies Research Center

Visit the Unbound Visual Arts (UVA) website at 
for updates!

Flyer design: Susan Loomis-Wing

"Saraswati’s Cow" by Chandana Dey

Saraswati Das lives in the village of Darpashila in the district of Birbhum, in Bengal, India. There are two women named ‘Saraswati’ (the Hindu goddess of learning and culture)- so we’ve always called her ‘Choto Saraswati’ (younger) to distinguish her from the ‘Boro Saraswati’ (elder).

Saraswati lives in a tiny thatched house, which hardly even has a courtyard, let alone any place to dry the hay/straw from the fields. She owns no land of her own, but she works on other’s fields as a manual laborer and takes up any other work that is available. She even leased a small patch of land from a neighbor so she could grow a few vegetables- and this patch was carefully covered with an old mosquito net to prevent marauding chickens and goats!

Saraswati, like most of the other women in this village, never managed to go to school. She married young- had children and acquired a husband who never really did any work at all, although he was quite happy beating Saraswati whenever he felt like it.

Yet, in my two decades in working in Bengali villages, I have rarely come across a more cheerful person. She always has the widest smile and the warmest countenance and on meeting her, one’s own petty problems seem to vanish. When we worked on herbal health, Choto Saraswati became the group head- and she could make, demonstrate, explain the herbal remedies with a clarity that was truly remarkable. I once asked her how she could remember the recipes- and she said, that she had developed a habit of going over the pictures of the herbs and their uses before she went to sleep. Since we worked largely with illiterate women, much of our ‘awareness-raising’ materials were in pictorial form.
Photo Credit: Ankita Sharma, Editor, Social Science Press
I recently ‘retired’ from my village development work, but was lucky enough to find a colleague who was willing to continue the work I had started as well as employ certain members of my village-based team. Srikanta Mondal is an agricultural scientist with decades of grassroots experience. He has embarked on an asset building programme where livestock will be provided to women- cows, goats, hens and ducks- and he is confident that in four years time- if the funding can be consistent- the asset worth of the entire village will come up to a consistent and steady level, allowing the women livestock owners sufficient cash for expenses such as their children’s education and other expenditures such as health.

I was very impressed at how scientifically Srikanta Mondal and his organization, Manab Jamin went about their work. In the first three months, village-development Block Officers of the Livestock Department, visited the villages and vaccinated all the cows, goats, hens and chickens in the villages under the Manab Jamin programme. For some villagers, it was the very first time they came into contact with these government officials who are paid (fairly high salaries) to work at the grassroots level.
Saraswati & her cow
Photo Credit: Chandana Dey
It was only AFTER this step was taken, that Manab Jamin distributed the livestock. Once again, this was very democratically done. The entire village sat and chose the most deserving recipients. The first animals to be given in each village- were one cow and two goats. An essential part of the livestock development programme is that once the cow has calves the first calf will be given to another person in the village, and the same applies to the baby goats. Each time, the baby calves and kids will be given away, and the decision will be conducted in the same democratic manner.

You can only imagine how delighted I was to learn that the recipient of the first cow given in Darpashila was Choto Saraswati. There could not be a more deserving recipient. I think this decision was unanimous. Saraswati will also learn about how to look after her cow, whom she has named ‘Sonamoni’ (heart’s delight) including growing fodder- perhaps on leased land- and some classes are being conducted on financial literacy so that once the savings begin, these will be deposited in government-aided savings schemes rather than dubious privately run  chit funds that have been so detrimental in destroying poor people’s hard-earned, hard-saved money.
                           ~ Chandana “Mamlu” Dey

Chandana relaxing in London - Photo Credit: Tonusree Basu

Chandana Dey is a Founding Member of the UNESCO/UNITWIN Network on Gender, Culture & People-Centered Development; and Former Editor, Social Science Press, New Delhi

Friday, October 13, 2017

Brighton-Allston Historical Society sponsoring Women & Domestic Service in 19th Century Boston & New England!

We are pleased to announce that our UNESCO/UNITWIN Affiliate the Brighton-Allston Historical Society will be sponsoring an event entitled: "Slaving for Others' Wants: Women & Domestic Service in Nineteenth-Century Boston & New England." The speaker will be Professor Carolyn R. Maibor who has a PhD from Brandeis University and specializes in Early through 19th-century American Literature & Philosophy, and Literary Theory & Gender Studies. She has published numerous books and articles, including on the history and literature of servitude.

Carolyn's talk will take place on Thursday, October 26th, 2017 at 7pm at the Brighton Allston Congregational Church, 404 Washington Street, Brighton Center, Massachusetts 02135. Do spread the word!

See the event flyer with further details below.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Friends of Faneuil Library Newest Affiliate of our UNESCO/UNITWIN Network!

Exciting news: we have a new Affiliate, the Friends of Faneuil Library (FOFL)/Boston Public Library! We're thrilled to have another vibrant educational entity in our midst, one with enormous community outreach and interaction. More at:

A message from the FOFL President, Maria Rodrigues:

As President of the Friends of the Faneuil Branch Library and in the name of the FOFL Executive Board I want to express our excitement about initiating our partnership with the UNESCO/UNITWIN Network. Similar to the members of the Network, the FOFL are committed to promoting cultural and educational opportunities with the goals of fostering community and the value of diversity. We look forward to a long and enriching cooperation.

From the FOFL bylaws:

The Faneuil Library Branch in action:

On the occasion of the annual Funky Auction to support the Faneuil Library's activities:
at left, Maria Rodrigues, President of the Friends of Faneuil Library;
at right, State Senator (and Auctioneer!) Will Brownsberger

At the Funky Auction June 3rd 2017:
at right, Faneuil Branch Librarian, Dorothy Keller;
at left, Ronni Komarow, Faneuil Gallery Coordinator;
at far left, Representative Kevin Honan with Mike O'Hara of the 57 Readers & Writers

For more information on the Friends of the Faneuil Library see:

and for activities of the Faneuil Branch of the Boston Public Library visit:

Congratulations to Raffi Freedman-Gurspan on her latest award!

On September 28th, 2017 BAGLY honored "the legendary Raffi Freedman-Gurspan, the first trans woman to ever work for the White House and alumna of the The Massachusetts Commission on LGBTQ Youth."

Left to right: Mason Dunn, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition; Marion Freedman-Gurspan; Raffi Freedman-Gurspan; Carl Sciortino, currently Executive Director of the AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts; Stan Freedman-Gurspan (photo credit BAGLY, Inc.)

Raffi Freedman-Gurspan of our Boston University WGS community earlier made history as the first openly transgender official at the White House. Raffi served as Senior Associate Director for Public Engagement and Outreach and as Recruitment Director for Presidential Personnel at the White House, with President Barack Obama.

Raffi worked early in her career until mid-2011 as Course and Research Assistant with Dr. Brenda Gael McSweeney at BU/WGS (Women's, Gender, & Sexuality Studies Program) in the arena of Gender and International Development. Raffi's primary interests over the years have included public policy making, minority and indigenous peoples' rights, and gender equality matters.

More on the BAGLY (Boston Alliance of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Youth) ceremony honoring Raffi at:

Friday, September 29, 2017

A Message from WGS Director Cati Connell on Program Publications & Events!

Photo: WGS/BU
Here are some announcements from the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program!

- Associate Professor Keith Vincent (World Languages and Literature & WGS) participated in a “translation slam” during the PEN World Voices Festival in New York in May, where he went head-to-head with fellow translator Janine Beichman to translate a poem by the feminist poet Hiromi Ito, who offered her commentary on the translations. Together with Catherine Yeh of BU’s Center for the Study of Asia, Vincent has organized a symposium to take place this October 12 & 13 on “Haiku as World Literature.” The website for the symposium, with titles and abstracts, can be found here: With help from a former student, he has also digitized 145 back issues of a Japanese journal devoted to research on Masaoka Shiki, which can now be found on Open BU.
- Assistant Professor Christopher Schmitt (Anthropology, Biology, & WGS) spent the summer studying vervet monkeys in South Africa, where he also presented research at the Primate Evolution and Genetics Group conference in Blyde Canyon. He has had two papers recently accepted for publication in the journal Nature Genetics - one on genetic variation and gene expression across developmental stages in vervet monkeys, and another on population adaptations to simian immunodeficiency virus in wild vervets. He will serve as discussant for the upcoming American Anthropological Association Roundtable “Anthropology Matters: Fighting essentialist ideas about poverty, race, and intelligence in the Trump Era.”
- Associate Professor Carrie Preston’s (English & WGS) book, Learning to Kneel: Noh, Modernism, and Journeys in Teaching (Columbia University Press, 2016) was a finalist for the Modernist Studies Association (MSA) book prize.
- Professor Linda McClain (BU Law & WGS) was a Laurence S. Rockefeller Visiting Faculty Fellow at Princeton’s Center for Human Values in 2016. She also signed a contract with Oxford for her upcoming book, Bigotry, Conscience, and Marriage: Past and Present Controversies and will be presenting at a conference titled Fifty Years of Loving v. Virginia and the Continued Pursuit of Racial Equality on November 3, 2017.
- WGS will be co-sponsoring this year’s BU Eve Sedgwick Memorial Lecture, given this year by Dean Spade on March 29, 2018.
- Associate Professor Catherine Connell (Sociology & WGS) published two articles about her current research on gender and sexuality policy change in the US military: one in the journal Sexualities titled "Different Than An Infantry Unit Down In Georgia’: Metronormativity in the Homophobia Narratives of Boston Area ROTC Cadets” and another in Sociology Compass called "Now That We Can Ask and Tell: The Social Movement Legacy of the DADT Repeal”. She also published another article in Sociological Forum titled "Contesting Racialized Discourses of Homophobia”.
- Assistant Professor Yoon Sun Yang (World Languages and Literatures & WGS) published her first book, From Domestic Women to Sensitive Young Men: Translating the Individual in Early Colonial Korea in July 2016 (Harvard University Press).
- Barbara Gottfried (WGS) presented a paper titled “No Holds Barred: Millennial Provocations in Women’s Stand-Up Comedy” at The Seventeenth Berkshire Conference on the History of Women, Genders, and Sexualities, June 2, 2017 at Hofstra University.
- Assistant Professor Anthony Petro (Religion & WGS) published an article titled "Ray Navarro's Jesus Camp, AIDS Activist Video, and the 'New Anti-Catholicism'" in the Journal of the American Academy of Religion.
- Associate Professor Ashley Mears published an article from her fieldwork on modeling in Russia in the journal Poetics called "Locating local knowledge in global networks: Scouting in fashion and football”.
- Assistant Professor Ashley Farmer’s (History, African American Studies, and WGS) new book, Remaking Black Power: How Black Women Transformed an Era (UNC Press), will be out on November 13th.
- WGS held a roundtable discussion on the legal, structural, and stigma-related restrictions on reproductive justice with BU faculty members Bayla Ostrich (Medical Anthropology & Cross Cultural Practice, School of Medicine), Khiara Bridges (BU Law & Anthropology), and special guest Professor Carol Sanger (Columbia Law) on April 3, 2017.
- Sarah Ihmoud (Post-doc in Anthropology & WGS) had a paper accepted for publication in the forthcoming issue of Cultural Anthropology. Co-authored with a collective of feminist anthropologists, the paper examines field researchers' experiences with racialized, gendered forms of violence. Sarah will be participating in a roundtable at the upcoming American Anthropological Association annual meeting on "Sexual Violence in Anthropology" hosted by the Association for Feminist Anthropology. She will also be presenting a film installation at the upcoming NWSA meeting titled "Moving Towards Home: The Feminist Imaginary from Palestine to M4BL”.   
- Assistant Professor Jennie Row published an article in the ASAP/Journal special issue on "Queer Form" about the Versailles sculptures of Jean-Michel Othoniel, early modern dance, and embodiment/anality. Another article, "Queer Time on the Early Modern Stage: France and the Drama of Biopower" appeared in the journal Exemplaria: Medieval, Early Modern,Theory. She was a 2016-17 Solmsen Fellow at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and she also organized a colloquium on "Show and Tell: Evidence, Erotics, and Embodiment in the Premodern World" at Madison. This year, she will continue her work as an alumna ambassador recruiting under-represented minority scholars for the Andover Institute for the Recruitment of Teachers, a program that encourages diversity in higher education. 

Friday, August 4, 2017

Trilingual Book Edited by Assistant Director of the Humphrey Fellowship Program, Cyrus Konstantinakos, Published!

From our UNESCO/UNITWIN Affiliate, the Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship Program at Boston University:

In July 2017, The ABCs of Chamorro was published. It's a trilingual photo-essay book that introduces one cultural topic for every letter of the Chamorro alphabet. The project was supported by School of Education at BU, the U.S. Department of Education, University of Guam and Guam Legislature. The book has been featured in USA Today, Pacific Daily News, and a book on multilingualism produced by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

According to Cyrus:

A couple of gender notes on Chamorro culture: The Chamorro creation myth describes how celestial siblings—a brother and sister—interdependently created the world and everything in it. Also, traditional Chamorro culture is matrilineal; people's names, social positions and wealth were all inherited through the mother's side of the family.

Congratulations to Cyrus and the Chamorro Studies students at the University of Guam!

Photo courtesy of the Humphrey Fellowship Program/BU

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

You are invited: Unbound Visual Arts (UVA) Exhibition Opening July 20th cosponsored by BU WGS's UNESCO/UNITWIN!


UVA Exhibition, Crossings Gallery at the Harvard Ed Portal, Allston July 20 - Aug. 22, 2017
Free Opening Kick-off Thursday July 20th 6-8 pm
jazz singer Beth Purcell and keyboardist Brian Friedland
food and drinks, short artist talks, raffle for popular gift cards
Curated by John Quatrale, Exhibition design by Karen Smigliani
 Aline Machado Martini, Charles River Speedway
administration building, digital photograph
Unbound Visual Arts (UVA) and the Harvard Ed Portal are pleased to present Rejuvenation in the air-conditioned Crossings Gallery at 224 Western Ave., Allston featuring 13 women artists who are also members of Unbound Visual Arts.
The launch party for this exhibition is Thursday July 20th from 6:00 - 8:00 pm with music, refreshments, short artist talks and a raffle.  The exhibition is an opportunity to delve into the life cycle of six historic Allston-Brighton landmarks through the latest Crossings Gallery and the non-profit Unbound Visual Arts curated exhibition Rejuvenation. Through mixed media works by local artists, this exhibition surveys properties in the neighborhood that have gone through a cycle of birth, deterioration, and abandonment or renewal. The works on display also explore parallel processes of rejuvenation in human life and ask how the past and future affect the present. The exhibition is curated by John Quatrale and designed by Karen Smigliani. 

Brenda Gael McSweeney, Oak Square School
 landmark building, digital photograph

The artists include: Marian Dioguardi, Angela Fiori, Deborah Flusberg, Mary Gillis, Heidi Lee, Mariel LeibovichSusan Loomis-Wing, Aline Machado Martini, Brenda Gael McSweeney, PhD, Ruth Rieffanaugh, Diane Sheridan, Anne Silber, Christine Winship.

Cosponsors include the International UNESCO/
UNITWIN Network on Gender, Culture & Development based at Boston University's Women's, Gender, & Sexuality Studies Program (WGS)
Gender and International Development Initiatives/ GaIDI of the Brandeis Women's Studies Research Center (WSRC); and the Boston Public Library's Faneuil Branch Librarian as a special supporter of the exhibit.
See the UVA Exhibition Website here, with the works exhibited, more about each landmark and the Curator's Statement.
The exhibition runs through August 22, 2017. The Crossing Gallery at 224 Western Avenue is open Monday - Thursday 10:00 - 6:00 pm and 10:00 - 5:00 pm on Fridays. It is served by the 66, 70 and 86 MBTA buses and is one mile from the Harvard Square Station.

Do spread the word!

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Memoir in Motion: From Russia to Switzerland to India ...

Chandana 'Mamlu' Dey, a Founding Member of our UNESCO/UNITWIN Network, hopes to trace her grandmother’s journey from Russia in the Revolution, to Europe in the 1930s, to Calcutta in the War Years and Shantiniketan during Tagore’s lifetime. As she writes, this is a Memoir of an extraordinary individual and also the story of the turbulent times she lived through. Chandana continues: 

I've started work on a Memoir of my grandmother, Ketaki Sarkar (nee Jonas); Kotya Jonas met Nitai Sarkar in Geneva before the Second World War. She was a daughter of a Russian émigré, he a struggling medical student. They met at a student dance, fell in love, and got married. My grandfather practiced medicine in a rural clinic in the Canton de Valais-Switzerland, in what has now become a tourist spot. After my mother was born, he was keen to return to India , and my grandmother was prepared to leave her own family behind in Europe, and accompany him to a strange country and make it her home. She did this so successfully that no one would ever comment on her ‘un-Indianness’. She was completely at home in all cultures, all countries. She spoke Bengali fluently but never forgot her French or Russian. She managed to enter the most ‘aristocratic’ circles in Kolkata and later in Shantiniketan, but she was a working woman all her life and the household ran because she did so many jobs — effortlessly side by side.  I still come across students of ‘Mme De-Sarkar’ who taught students French at the Alliance Française in Kolkata.   

Three generations: Chandana at right with her mother and grandmother
Writing this Memoir really makes me think of how much more open societies were in the past.  I grew up in the 1970s knowing that the United States was made of struggling immigrants- where there was ‘place for all’. Migrants and immigrants have strived hard in unfamiliar surroundings, faced hardships and made successes of their lives. Would my grandmother have been able to fulfill her trajectory today? Surely, the more we close our borders, we close ourselves, and this makes us lead ‘small’ lives? 

~ Chandana 'Mamlu' Dey

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

WGS's Diane Balser Active in Denmark on International Women's Day!

On March 8th I attended International Women’s Day in Copenhagen, Denmark.

I attended an event sponsored by a progressive political party. It was interesting to me that the leader of the party was young. I found out that most of the leading women in politics in Denmark are under 40 with few exceptions. I attended a workshop led by a relatively young German female political leader on women’s rights around abortion (abortion rights are under attack in large parts of Southern and Middle Europe) led by Catholic and fundamentalist Protestant politicians. Other issues discussed were the sexualization of women’s bodies and violence against women.

There was a big march: “Feminist 8th of March” with speeches about parental leave for both parents, equal pay and women’s struggles in a welfare county. In addition, there were critiques of right wing politicians and neoliberal economic policies linked to sexism.

I led a workshop during the following weekend on the elimination of sexism using tools for women from Denmark, Sweden, Netherlands, Germany, and Switzerland. There were a number of women of color and also younger women that were part of each delegation. We spent a lot of time having women listen to each other about each woman’s life and the sexism and racism that were often faced. Also discussed were the key issues around sexism that effect all women including sexual violence and physical violence against women, females and power, leadership, economic inequalities, environmental injustices, the effects of other oppression such as racism, class, disability, sexual and gender identities, homophobia, ethnicity, nationality. Also a whole range of topics such as religion and sexism, women’s work, sexism and the media, etc. were discussed and the emotional effects were explored.

The workshop was sponsored by No Limits for Women of a co-counseling network. No Limits for Women offers a system of ongoing mutual support and resource. It is available to all women, whatever their economic, social, and cultural circumstances. The support and resource make it possible for women (and men) to sustain our efforts to eliminate sexism. Women participants have access to effective tools that they can use on a one-to-one basis.
                                                                                                                            ~ Dr. Diane Balser

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Opening Night! Boston City Hall Exhibition, and Panel on "Women in the Workforce"

On Thursday, 16 March 2017, two Boston University (BU) Humphrey Fellows—Sevgim Çisel Çelik Keskin of Turkey and Pakaiphone Syphoxay of Laos—teamed up with MIT Fellow Heba Khalil of Egypt to present on the theme of “Women in the Workforce” in their respective countries at a symposium that served as the kickoff event of a Boston City Hall exhibition entitled “Earned: Women in Business and Labor.” The exhibition presented by Unbound Visual Arts, Inc. and the Mayor’s Office of Arts and Culture, was supported by the Mayor’s Office of Women’s Advancement, the Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies Program (WGS) at Boston University, Gender & International Development Initiatives of the Brandeis Women’s Studies Research Center (GaIDI/WSRC), and the Boston Women’s Heritage Trail (BWHT). The exhibition coincides with Women’s History Month in the United States and UN International Women’s Day on March 8th, which has a 2017 theme of “Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50:50 by 2030.” The exhibition that will run until April 6th was curated by John Quatrale with Advisor Brenda Gael McSweeney of BU’s WGS, and received additional support for exhibition design from Alexandra Kontsevaia Peterson and graphic design from Cait Stuff.

BU Prof. Toni Pepe
BU HHHP Assistant Director Cyrus Konstantinakos moderated the symposium, which began with a short presentation by BU Assistant Professor of Art & Photography Toni Pepe. During the fall semester, Professor Pepe and her colleague Laura Grey led a two-session workshop on multimodal literacy for the Fellows to support their presentation on “Women in the Workforce” that they would deliver in November, at the Humphrey Fellowship’s Global Leadership Forum in Washington, DC. Toni gave an overview of the workshop and underscored the importance of having dexterity with the media through which messages are broadcast in the 21st century.

Following Professor Pepe’s remarks, the Humphrey Fellows presented on these topics:

L to R: Humphrey Fellows Sevgim and Pakai

Women’s Labour Force Participation and the Feminist Movement in Turkey: Sevgim Çisel Çelik Keskin

Women’s Economic Empowerment in Laos: Rural and Urban Dimensions: Pakaiphone Syphoxay

The Role of Space in Mediating Gender Equity: Hebaallah Essameldin Khalil

L to R: Louise Elving, Cyrus Konstantinakos, Heba Khalil
In attendance were city officials, heads of local NGOs, former BU HHHP Director Ksenya Khinchuk, BU faculty and students, MIT Humphrey Program Lecturer Louise Elving, BWHT Board Director Mary Smoyer, Resident Scholars of WSRC/Brandeis and students in the Community College Initiative at Bunker Hill Community College—another international exchange program under the U.S. Department of State. A lively discussion among this diverse group of stakeholders followed the Fellows’ presentations, and more in-depth conversations took place during the reception that immediately followed.

View Flickr Photo Album here !

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Hubert H. Humphrey Fellows to Lead a Presentation on "Global Perspectives on Women in the Workforce"

Hubert H. Humphrey Fellows from Boston University and MIT will be leading a presentation entitled: "Global Perspectives on Women in the Workforce" to be held at Boston City Hall on Thursday, March 16th, 2017 (Piedmonte Room, fifth floor). You are cordially invited to join and interact with the Fellows who hail from Turkey, Zambia, Egypt, and Laos. This event it taking place in the context of Women's History Month. 

Immediately following will be Opening Reception for the Exhibition Earned: Women in Business and Labor organized by Unbound Visual Arts in the Boston City Hall Scollay Gallery (third floor). This Exhibition featuring 16 women artists was launched on March 8th, International Women’s Day. Reception highlights will include the Sherri Zhang String Trio, 6 short artist talks and appetizers on Thursday, March 16th from 5:00 - 7:00 pm in the Gallery. Unbound Visual Arts is an Affiliate of the UNESCO/UNITWIN Network on Gender, Culture & Development anchored at BU's Women's, Gender, & Sexuality Studies Program

Among the Exhibition supporters are the Mayor's Office for Women's Advancement, the Women's, Gender, & Sexuality Studies Program (WGS) at Boston University, Gender & International Development Initiatives of the Brandeis Women's Studies Research Center (GaIDI/WSRC), and the Boston Women's Heritage Trail.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

You are invited: Unbound Visual Arts Exhibition at Boston City Hall, supported by WGS!

Unbound Visual Arts (UVA), a UNESCO/UNITWIN Network Affiliate, has been invited to present the Exhibition Earned: Women in Business & Labor at Boston City Hall from 8 March to 6 April 2017. The Opening Reception will be in the Scollay Square Gallery (third floor) on Thursday March 16th from 5 to 7 pm. Earlier that afternoon, the Hubert H. Humphrey Program at Boston University is holding a Panel Discussion with presentations by Humphrey Fellows and BU Faculty on gender equality in the workforce around the globe (Piedmonte Room fifth floor). These events will be in celebration of both International Women's Day-8 March and Women's History Month-March 2017. Boston University's Women's, Gender, & Sexuality Studies Program is a cosponsor of the UVA Exhibition.

Look forward to seeing you there!

Drawn from the UVA Exhibition website:
Unbound Visual Arts
Ruth Rieffanaugh, President
Martin J. Walsh, Mayor and Julie Burros, Chief of Arts and Culture
Earned: Women in Business and Labor 
March 8 - April 6, 2017
An exhibition about the roles of women in business and labor and their sacrifices, challenges, leadership, and innovation
Exhibition Design by Alexandra Kontsevaia Peterson and
Graphic Design by Cait Stuff
Scollay Square Gallery, Boston City Hall, Boston, MA 02108

UVA artists: Nancer Ballard, Nancy Hall Brooks, Linda Clave, Anita Helen Cohen, Jennifer Jean Costello, Lynda Goldberg, Sarah Iwany, Nhung Mackey, Aline Martini, Brenda Gael McSweeney, Diane Sheridan, Maria Termini, Andrea Zampitella, Ellen Zellner

with support from the Mayor's Office for Women's Advancement, the Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship Program at Boston University, the Boston Women's Heritage Trail, the Women's, Gender, & Sexuality Studies Program (WGS) at Boston University, and Gender & International Development Initiatives of the Brandeis Women's Studies Research Center (GaIDI/WSRC)

Opening Reception with live music and short artist talks - Thursday, March 16th 5-7 pm (third floor) preceded by Panel Discussion & Presentation by the BU Humphrey Fellowship Program on Gender Equality in the Workforce 4-5 pm in the Piedmonte Room (fifth floor)

There is also a special website related to Worker's Rights & Equality here
More about Women's History Month here
And about United Nations International Women's Day 2017 here

Unbound Visual Arts (UVA), a 501(c)(3) non-profit, is organizing an exhibition related to the historic theme of “women in business and labor” at Boston City Hall’s Scollay Square Gallery, One City Hall Square, Boston, MA 02201. This exhibition is under the supervision and jurisdiction of the City of Boston's Arts and Culture Office. Learn more about UVA's thematic curated exhibitions here.

The purpose of the exhibition, through art created by today’s artists as well as other relevant components (documents, books, music, videos, artifacts, poetry etc.) is to provide the exhibition audience with an opportunity to learn and experience this important historical topic and its relevancy to modern times.

The exhibition coincides with Women’s History Month in the United States and International Women’s Day on March 8th, which has a 2017 theme of “Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50:50 by 2030.” The exhibition will run from March 8 - April 6, 2017. The opening reception on Thursday March 16th, 2017 from 5:00 - 7:00 pm with live music, refreshments, and short artist talks is free and open to the public.

Cover: Brighton-Allston Historical Society

Statement prepared by the Curator, John Quatrale, for this exhibition:

"The United States has a long history of women in the paid workforce and in business. But, full inclusion ‘in the world of work’ and participation has taken almost three centuries for improvements to occur and for women to begin to achieve gender equality in participation and benefits. Those successes and achievements have included higher pay, job appreciation, better working conditions, more opportunities, and increased value to their local, state and national economies. Those changes were often the result of severe hardships and sacrifices by women of all races, nationalities, backgrounds, education, and regions. They challenged laws and regulations as well as social standards and stereotypes and organized women to change public opinion. As a result of that hard work and commitment, organizations and businesses began to slowly change all across the United States and in many nations and eventually they were codified progressive measures by governments. More women have now become empowered to contribute to their personal, family and community well-beings in the United States and throughout the world. These improvements are manifested in many areas of today’s society such as the family, corporations, education, sports, healthcare, arts and culture, and the military. Despite these changes, however, the rights and health of women continue to be threatened in the United States and internationally. ”