Wednesday, March 14, 2012

International Women's Day in Santiniketan

We'd like to share with you a letter from Chandana Dey, our colleague in Santiniketan, West Bengal, India. In the message below, Chandana tells us about "Women's Week" activities in Shantiniketan.

Dear Brenda,

It’s been “Women’s Week,” here in Santiniketan and we have been hearing “women’s voices” on topics ranging from physical violence to women wanting more say in who they marry. The energetic and productive discussions on these subjects really showed how much support women have gained in their fight against rape and how much people-both men and women-want to bring cases of violence against women to justice.
Below is a picture of some women who were awarded for their hard work throughout the year, working for women’s empowerment. The two women on the left are my team members-Saidurnesha Khatun, who looks after both the children in the Early Childhood Care and Education Programme (Home Schools) and the adolescent girl campaign, “WE DEMAND”, and Mungli Murmu who heads the Ajoli Food Processing Unit for AHIMSA.

I am also sharing with you a snapshot of participants from a Women's Day discussion on physical violence and threats faced by women from all classes. The speakers were Shahana Khatun and Sunanada Mukherjee. I moderated this discussion. 

The main problem brought up was the insecurity faced by women-of all classes-while traveling and commuting. The discussants talked about, in particular, the threats women receive from land mafia and other powerful bodies, and the often unsympathetic response of the authorities. The positive role of the media was also highlighted. In conclusion, the speakers felt that women needed to unite and protest jointly at events such as these. Everyone also agreed that the 8th of March was not just a day for being together, but that it continues to represent just one day in the enduring struggle for women's rights.


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

On March 7, 2012, as a prelude to International Women's Day, Boston University's Women, Gender, & Sexuality Studies Program co-sponsored an important event on Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). GaIDI, the Gender and International Development Initiatives of the Brandeis Women's Studies Research Center (WSRC), was the host and lead organizer of one in a series of bi-lingual readings about Pierre Foldes. Before a crowd in the Liberman-Miller Lecture Hall at  WSRC/Brandeis, author Hubert Prolongeau and scholar/activist Tobe Levin read from Undoing FGM: Pierre Foldes, the Surgeon Who Restores the Clitoris. A world-renowned surgeon and anti-FGM activist, Pierre Foldes is best known for his work on post-FGM clitoris repair. As a result of his surgical work and his commitment to speaking out against FGM, victims of the harmful practice are given back hope for the future.

Author Hubert Prolongeau and FGM Scholar/Activist and Translator Tobe Levin read from Undoing FGM at the GaIDI WSRC event, Brandeis University

Dr. Tobe Levin, former WSRC/HBI (Hadassah Brandeis Institute) Scholar, signing a copy of the book she translated  over to Dr. Brenda Gael McSweeney, a founder of GaIDI and WSRC Resident Scholar

GaIDI and other WSRC scholars and students interacting at the event. L to R, current and former GaIDI members: Janet Freedman, Ruth Nemzoff, Rahel Wasserfall
To learn more about a courageous French physician and the women who welcome his help, visit:

For more on the Brandeis University Women's Studies Research Center (WSRC) Scholars Program and events, see

For more on the Boston University Women's, Gender, & Sexuality Studies Program (WGS) courses, faculty and events, see

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

BU Women's, Gender, & Sexuality Studies Program Co-sponsoring: "Not My Life": Documentary on Child Trafficking Worldwide

Save the Date: March 26, 2012
Event: "Not My Life" - Film narrated by Glenn Close
Director: Oscar-nominated Robert Bilheimer
Time: 7:45 PM
Location: Brandeis University Campus, Olin Sang 101

We are pleased to share with you news of an upcoming event WGS is co-sponsoring, hosted by the Gender and International Development Initiatives (GaIDI) of the Brandeis University Women's Studies Research Center (WSRC). On March 26th at 7:45, you are invited to a screening of the powerful documentary on child trafficking entitled "Not My Life." Filmed across four years and five continents, this unprecedented project reveals the terrifying scope and depth of one of the worst forms of human rights abuse in the world today. "Not My Life" goes beyond simply raising awareness about the pandemic of child trafficking around the globe and highlights the work and enduring commitment of modern-day abolitionists.

Dr. Mei-Mei Ellerman, member of GaIDI and Board Director of the Polaris Project-leading anti-human trafficking NGO in the US and Japan-will give an overview of the issue of modern-day slavery and a brief introduction to the film. After the film, Dr. Ellerman, GaIDI/WSRC and the Co-sponsors will invite the audience to remain for a discussion of "Not My Life", the role of the 21st century abolitionists, and how to join the fight against slavery in our times.

Co-sponsors include: Women's Studies Research Center, Brandeis University; Women's, Gender, & Sexuality Studies Program of Boston University; Gender Working Group, Heller School for Social Policy and Management, Brandeis University; Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism, Brandeis University; Our Bodies, Ourselves; Coexistence Program, Brandeis University; Brandeis Interfaith Chaplaincy.