March 14, 2023, Pune: To mark International Women’s Day (IWD) this year, the Women’s Cell at FLAME University collaborated with Prashanti Cancer Care Mission (PCCM), Pune, to heighten awareness of breast cancer amongst the female housekeeping staff of FLAME, belonging to low-income households and hailing from the nearby village of Lavale. PCCM is a registered, public charitable trust founded by Dr. C. B. Koppiker, an internationally renowned breast oncosurgeon, and run by its CEO, Ms. Laleh Busheri.

The three-day program on the 8th, 9th, and 10th of March was built upon the IWD 2023 campaign theme of #EmbraceEquity. On March 8, the Women’s Cell organized a film screening of Agnès Varda’s French new wave classic, Cléo, from 5 to 7. The film’s feminist approach to the discourse on beauty, identity, and mortality struck a chord with the audience. The film screening was very well received by students and faculty members and encouraged a discussion on questions of self-perception, mobility, and the female gaze.

According to a study by Globocon 2020, a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer in India every four minutes, with more than 1,78,000 new cases recorded each year, making it the most common cancer among Indian women. Therefore, the camp included breast examinations of staff members and faculty. 

Finally, a panel discussion with two distinguished speakers, Neha Dixit (an independent journalist) and Shrayana Bhattacharya (a senior economist and author of the non-fiction book, Desperately Seeking Shah Rukh: India’s Lonely Young Women and the Search for Intimacy and Independence), was organized on March 10. Both speakers delved into inspiring stories of women who continue to fight for equality, freedom, and success in multiple spaces. While Shrayana spoke about the struggles of upwardly mobile young women in big cities, Neha shared the challenges faced by freelance women reporters in small towns and cities. 

Shrayana Bhattacharya said, "The debate over India's economy and job creation is a significant concern for economists. Many overlook the complexities of non-financial factors, such as the crisis in the housing market and its impact on women's lives. Behind the crisis of work is a crisis of love. Feminist marriages where the burden of care work is shared by both men and women are a topic that requires attention. The economy, the division of labour, and the maintenance crisis have a profound impact on women's lives. It's time to re-examine our understanding of work and love to create a better future for all."

Also sharing her views on this occasion was Neha Dixit, who stated, "The democratization of media through the internet has brought about a discernible shift in the process of dissemination of news. Local communities are taking control of their own narratives. However, it is important for media organizations to report stories with responsibility and consider the heavy impact they may have on the people involved. Marginalized voices must be heard, and representation must be consciously addressed. The power of storytelling is not limited by language or geography; it is through personal narratives that it is capable of changing societal norms and perceptions. The media plays a crucial role in lending a voice to these stories by creating a platform for diverse perspectives that foster a culture of empathy and understanding."

The Vice-Chancellor of FLAME University, Dr. Dishan Kamdar, also shared his insights on this important event and added, "We are supportive and proud of the initiative taken up by the Women's Cell at FLAME University on International Women’s Day. As a higher education institution, we believe that it is our responsibility to create an equitable and inclusive environment for all members of our community, regardless of gender, and impart the same through our academic programs as well as non-academic activities. Our endeavor is to ensure that we follow practices that will encourage and inspire us to work collectively towards creating a more gender-sensitive and equitable ecosystem around us."

By celebrating the spirit of International Women’s Day 2023, the Women’s Cell at FLAME University successfully shed light on conversations around the importance of embracing equity in all spheres of life through these meaningful initiatives. The Women’s Cell is chaired by Prof. Juhi Sidharth and includes Prof. Shalaka Shah, Prof. Kasturi Chatterji, Prof. Ramna Walia, Prof. Supriya Chouthoy, Prof. Ketoki Majumdar, Prof. Smita Chaudhry, Prof. Garima Rajan, Ms. Tejashree Thakar, and Prof. Divya Balan as its members.

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