Published: 25th October 2018
These women from Trivandrum have made it their mission to fight for equality
The voices behind Samam speak about fighting for equality following the recent political climate
If you had visited the Kanakakunnu Palace Grounds in Trivandrum on the days leading up to 16 October, you would have witnessed the beginning of something quite special. Women from diverse backgrounds and industries had decided to come together to deliberate on how they would fight for something extremely simple: Equality.
The group was formed when a group of women who share ideologies and goodwill in common who work in various platforms around Trivandrum decided that their voices needed to be heard. "In the recent climate, we got a growing feeling that we were being misheard. We mean the voice of women from Kerala. We were being represented as stereotypes and given the face of helpless women who were unable to stand up for themselves after the Sabarimala verdict was announced," says Dr Anishia Jayadev, a faculty member at the Institute of Management in Government.
According to Anishia, who has been an influencer in the area for many years, there are a large number of women who wholeheartedly support the supreme court verdict. She says, "There are many women who think differently. The issue is that we are not coordinated and we are not talking. Because of this, most of us don't consider this as a simple right to enter a shrine. It is about a basic right that the constitution lends us. We are not about to say no to something like that. The cultural and religious sentiments behind it are irrelevant to us, it's about our basic rights and not being passive and standing still while they are taken away from us. It is most importantly about setting a precedent."
EYES WIDE OPEN: The organisation believes that the voices of women are going unheard
Anishia and her peers believe thatthea most crucial voice is going unheard in the political conversation. "The voice of a progressive Kerala is being forcibly stifled. A few of us who have met on various platforms and have always been involved socially decided to take matters into our own hands." Although the group only decided to band together officially five days before the actual event, they got the ball rolling in no time.
Samam is not an organisation, insists its members. "It's more accurately a gathering of women," says Anishia. "The issue right now for us is upholding the constitution. We are not claiming that women should compulsorily make the journey to Sabarimala or participate in the pilgrimage. That is why this whole uproar is bizarre. It's not just this. We aren't supporting this cause by catching the next bus to Sabarimala. Our work here is to determine how to protect the women who do choose to participate. And we mean legal and social support. We plan to inform our respective offices and those around us about how this works. We are not forcing ourselves anywhere."
Through our discussions, we received some clarity about how important it is for women to stick together. This is when we decided that we needed equality and Samam was going to be the way we would go about it. It is also about beliefs and disbeliefs and how important it is to maintain our basic rights and freedom through it
Anishia Jayadev, Founding Member, Samam
Anishia wants the public to focus on those women who are interested to participate even among those who strictly say no to it. She says, "It is honestly us mimicking others for the greater good. We are trying to get through to the truly faithful who will not be blinded by petty politics and rivalry. Our voices are that of Kerala's women as a whole and we will not allow it to be stifled regardless of where each of us stand. Even the women from the opposite side of the political lines deserve a voice and that is what we are fighting for."
The group met with Chief Minister, Pinarayi Vijayan and said that whatever action he takes will be extremely important for the progress of women. She says, "We made it clear to him that we, as a group of women will be supporting him regardless of how things turn out. We organised a press conference. Our mentor is Dr Meera Velayudhan, the daughter of Dakshayani Velayudhan, the former parliamentarian who was one of the first dalit women to graduate in science. Who better than her to understand and help us deal and organise against the women-hating sentiments that are rising up around us."
PROUD CROWD: The gathering was held at Manaveeyam Vedhi
"Similarly, there is an anti-Dalit thought process also going around," says Anishia. "We want to address this in whatever way we are able to. We are even considering going across colleges and starting conversations with students and educating them about the socio-political realities that have lead to such unnecessary violence. This is way beyond gender, it is about our right for survival and dignity now.
On 16 October, the group Introduced themselves to society and people in general. They focused on making their presence known through rational discussions and by raising awareness through skits and other important tools. Anishia says, "More than the concept of being like-minded, we are women from across the board with various ideologies and concepts. But the important thing is that we accomodate each other and work with understanding. This is what we want to happen but on a larger scale. It is the need of the hour to stay together. If we stray farther, other people will take advantage of us."