Scholars speak on improving women’s lives worldwide
Over the past two years, four scholars in the Women Studies Resource Center have explored gender, culture and politics across India, Cuba, El Salvador and Indonesia. On Sept. 24th, these scholars — Mary Berg, Rajashree Ghosh, Siti Nurjanah and Ellen Rovner — spoke about their research and hands-on efforts toward the betterment of women’s lives worldwide. The event was called “Hand in Hand: Helping to Transform Women’s Lives.”
Linda Bond, an artist in residence, moderated the event, opening the discussion by telling the audience that she was “so happy to be around a group of varied scholars.”
First, Ghosh discussed her project, which raises key issues related to land tenure in informal urban settlements in India. Ghosh focused particularly on Delhi’s urban “slums,” an overpopulated, urban area inhabited by people with no land rights. Ghosh’s project seeks to provide “an opportunity for urban justice,” she said.
She described working with the Consult for Women and Land Rights — which increases resources for disadvantaged women — and developing a sanja chulha, a community kitchen for women, in one of the slums.
Next, Berg presented on her experiences working in Cuba. Berg focuses on Latin-American writers as part of her work and is a part of the Cuba Exchange Delegation. Her current project, which she described in her presentation, focuses on the re-editing and critical commentary of 19th century Latin American women’s texts.
One of the books that Berg specifically mentioned in her presentation was “Open Your Eyes and Soar,” a collection of writings from Cuban women. “Women have very specific voices, and Cuba has encouraged community participation and individualization,” Berg said of the book.
Rovner then addressed the audience, discussing her experiences discovering the culture and history of El Salvador.
Rovner is a cultural anthropologist who studies the intersection of gender, class, food and ethnicity, and she is currently an adjunct professor at Boston University, teaching in the Masters in Liberal Arts and Gastronomy program. Her current project, she told the audience, is exploring cooking as a feminist action to empower women and make meaningful change in society.
She said she was offered the opportunity to visit El Salvador while she was doing research on the cultural integration of immigrant communities in Chelsea, Mass.
Of her experiences working with immigrants, Rovner said, “I feel particularly committed to newer immigrants coming in,” citing her own ancestors’ experiences immigrating to the United States as inspiration.
“I had this real desire for stories … stories of immigrants that migrate.”
Nurjanah then concluded with her presentation on family planning in Indonesia. Nurjanah’s current project, she told the audience, focuses on the obstacles women’s representation movements face from the status quo.
The dominant political parties as well as the other democratic institutions in Indonesia, she argued, are stubborn and resistant to major change.
Nora Owens ’16, an arts assistant for the WSRC who was in the audience for the discussion touched on the important of sharing these types of international experiences.“It was good to hear from four other scholars and their works around the world,” she said in an interview with the Justice.