Women members are a vibrant and important part of Rotary,” said RIDN A S Venkatesh, addressing the 300 women delegates from RIDs 3190, 3160, 3150, 3141, 3142 and 3131 at Samhita, a conference for women Rotarians, hosted by RC Gargis, RID 3170, in Kolhapur. “Women have begun assuming leadership positions throughout the Rotary world as club presidents, district governors and officers. Eight out of 17 members at the International Rotary Management Committee are women,” he added, and urged that each Rotarian should add at least one woman to their club.
The conclave focused on promoting ideas for making Rotary attractive for women and brought together field experts and senior district leaders to discuss and deliberate on the topic. Gauri Hiremath, RID 3170’s Coordinator for Women in Rotary said that the respect for women has grown tremendously. “I don’t see myself as a woman in Rotary, I am a Rotarian and am grateful to my Rotary family to have helped me learn and grow while serving the society.”
DG Girish Masurkar described the struggle of women “right from the time when in 1978, the Rotary Club of Duarte, California, USA, invited three women to become members. This was followed by the club’s charter being revoked and a nine-year court battle that resulted in the historic CoL of 1989, where it was voted to eliminate the “male only” provision for membership in Rotary.” He said that his district had 700 women members, “and I will do my best to increase that number.”
Jhilam Roy Chowdhury, RILM’s Director-Programmes, in her address said, “Women intuitively understand conflict resolution and the importance of working towards an environment-friendly and secular future. Conferences like Samhita give an opportunity to highlight our achievements and face challenges bravely.”
Dr Meenakshi Bharat, a gynaecologist and member of RC Bangalore West, RID 3190, sensitised the Rotarians to focus more programmes on addressing the ‘period stigma’. “Together we must make sure that all girls are well-informed about menstruation and how to manage it in a hygienic manner,” she said.
Other sessions included topics on health, leadership and conservation of water.
PDG Shyamshree Sen, RID 3291, urged the women Rotarians to get better involved in service projects and improve the membership strength. “After great efforts women have become part of Rotary, but the numbers are marginal. The acceptance of women in the clubs will make Rotary vibrant for the next 100 years,” she said.