Agnimitra Paul and Ryena Gupta at the Shaktiroopena workshop at Rotary Sadan and (right) Lopamudra Mitra at Gorkha Bhavan. Pictures by Arnab Mondal & Anindya Shankar Ray
Protest and protect was the message at two workshops on self-defence and women’s rights held at Rotary Sadan and Gorkha Bhavan on Sunday as part of Shaktiroopena, a campaign by Ambuja Cement in association with Anandabazar Patrika and The Telegraph aimed at empowering women of Bengal. The discussion ranged from various kinds of assault— mental or physical — on women to the need to speak up.
Singer Lopamudra Mitra began the session at Gorkha Bhavan by talking about family perceptions and how her father never wanted her to take up music as a profession. “He thought there is no respect in going from one programme to another, one locality to another, singing. But he had no problem if people looked up to his daughter,” said the voice behind the Shaktiroopena anthem.
Speaking at Rotary Sadan, fashion designer Agnimitra Paul too agreed that parents need to teach their daughters to stand up for their rights and protest if they are wronged.
“A woman needs to be really strong. She has that strength within her; she just needs to use it and face the world. She must have confidence in whatever she does,” Mitra said.
Self-defence expert Ryena Gupta, who was present at both the workshops, said children must be taught the difference between right and wrong, between good touch and bad touch. “Speak up! Avoiding an assault gives the doer the courage to repeat the act on another person. If you raise your voice and are alert, you can protect yourself as well as other women,” she said.
Gupta demonstrated some self-defence tactics and shared a few tips. “Be alert, scream and raise the alarm. Call police without panicking,” was her advice.
“The knuckle bones, elbows and knees are the strongest parts of a woman’s body, she should use these to hurt the attacker. The middle area of the body— nose, chest, solar plexus and belly — should be targeted,” said the administrative officer of All India Seishinkai Shito Ryu Karate Do Federation.
Lisa Dutta, 21, a student at Calcutta National Medical College who was in the audience at Gorkha Bhavan, spoke about how most women remained mute spectators. “When a woman objects or raises her voice, the other women often avoid the situation keeping quiet or looking away. If we support each other, then many such situations can be averted.”
From physical assault, the talk veered towards gender bias. “Who are men to decide how women should dress,” Agnimitra asked.
Sofia Sanyal from Bansdroni shared her experience of discrimination at the workplace. “I used to work for a well-known NGO and when my boss learnt that I was pregnant, she wanted me put down my papers. I didn’t, instead I sued the company,” she said, urging women to change their attitude towards other women.
Mithu Banerjee, a clerk at Baruipur court, agreed. A divorcee, she said she is often looked down upon by neighbours. “It is as if it is wrong to be a single parent.”