Ushering in more gender equity, within and outside Rotary

It is not by design but a random selection of the new District Governors’ interviews that Jaishree and I already had in our news basket that we have featured this month’s DGs. It is remarkable to note that in these short snapshots, four out of the five DGs interviewed, have put their focus on enhancing women’s membership in their clubs during their stint at the helm of the district. One of them — Stuti Agarwal from RC Allahabad, RID 3120 — is a woman and one of the two female governors, the other being Pinky Patel from RC Baroda, RID 3060. Incidentally, this is the first time that India has two women governors in a single batch. Now Stuti hails from not one of India’s rocking metros or big cities but a town from Uttar Pradesh, an Indian State not particularly known for women’s empowerment. And this, despite UP having returned the highest number of women Parliamentarians — 13 — in the current Lok Sabha. And now one more woman, Tabassum Hasan, from the Rashtriya Lok Dal, has made it to the Lower House through the recent bypoll in Khairana. Three cheers to Stuti’s resolve to get women into Rotary in her district, not merely to boost numbers “but ensure that they do the work and are fully involved and participate in our service projects.” And she smartly links the recent directives from Rotary’s top leadership from both Evanston and India to cut down extravaganza and concentrate on community projects by quipping: “That’s why women; they are always cost-conscious”.

In Rotary News, it has always been a delight to feature projects that concentrate on women’s education, welfare, and above all specialised skilling to enhance their livelihood. In this issue too, we report the path-breaking initiative undertaken by the Family Court Judge in Pune, Swati Chavan, who incidentally happens to be a Rotary Peace Scholar, to launch Swayam ­Siddha, a self-empowerment project which is giving special training to women who have been deserted or divorced by men refusing to pay the maintenance granted by the courts. Thanks to the initiative of Rtn Vaishali ­Bhagwat, RID 3131 is partnering with the Family Court and some NGOs to skill several such women who have now started their own ventures and are making a decent income. In Gujarat, thanks to the initiative of PDG Ashok Panjwani and his wife Meera, a past president of RC Ankleshwar, in this industrial town, girls and young women who had to drop out of school for various reasons, are being specially coached by Pratham teachers, who are paid by the club, to appear for their Board exams and pursue higher education if they wish. Some of the girls, infused with a new confidence, have opted for computer classes, and the club will continue this project. In yet another article, we bring you a project by RC Mandi, RID 3070, which is spreading awareness on the use of biodegradable plates, with the aim to help rural women in Gharwasra village near Mandi in ­Himachal Pradesh, to earn a decent living, by setting up a leaf-plate manufacturing unit in the village.

As they say ‘every drop helps’ in conserving water, every project, however small, to help women, educationally, economically and psychologically and boost their self-confidence and sense of self-worth will not only help your community and country, but will also make Rotary a richer, worthier organisation.


Rasheeda Bhagat

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