Visiting gender activist Kamla Bhasin has said although many women’s rights activists say ‘no country is for women,’ she believes ‘as a woman, the whole world is my country’.
She was speaking at a programme titled ‘Celebrating Kamla Bhasin: 40 years in solidarity with Bangladesh’ at Dhaka’s Chhayanaut Auditorium on Friday, where hundreds of pro-feminist people formed an audience to experience an evening with the prominent activist of South Asia.
Bhasin, the main person behind ‘Sangat’, A South Asian Feminists Network, said she has been working to ‘break the misunderstanding between the south Asian countries’ which she said ‘has been the sole purpose of her life’.
By organizing the ‘Sangat Month Long Course’ since 1984, the Network has developed the capacities of more than 650 women activists from South Asia and offered a greater understanding of concepts related to gender, justice, poverty, sustainable development, peace, democracy and human rights.
Veteran women rights activists of Bangladesh talked about their personal experiences with Bhasin over the years at the programme.
Kamla Bhasin with veteran women rights activists of Bangladesh at ‘Celebrating Kamla Bhasin: 40 years in solidarity with Bangladesh’
Khushi Kabir said, “Bhasin has linked the feminist activists of the entire region. She has spread a borderless love from Turkey to Vietnam.”
“She has made the (women rights) movement fun-filled with theories, information and creativity,” Kabir said.
According to Sultana Kamal, Bhasin, with her deep understanding of freedom of women, taught all to fight against social injustice with confidence and fun.
Other speakers referred her as ‘an exceptional Indian’, ‘Guru’ and ‘someone who could massively reach people without showing off’.
Kamla, who will soon celebrate her 70th birthday, is also a renowned social scientist, advocate, trainer, songwriter with focuses on gender, education, human development and the media.
She said, “People always say how important gurus are. The ability, the brightness of a guru depends on their students.”
“Bangladesh has given me the closest of friends. We are not after big positions. All of us are here for the practice of love.”
She said people of Bangladesh were instrumental to some of the ‘finest revolutions’ in world history including the Liberation War of 1971 and the Language Movement.
Rights activist Muktasree Chakma and her team performing a monologue titled ‘Why shall I not resist’ at ‘Celebrating Kamla Bhasin: 40 years in solidarity with Bangladesh’
As a United Nation’s representative, Bhasin first came to Bangladesh in 1976 and worked with Gonoshasthaya Kendra, a rural health care organisation.
According to Bhasin, the organisation has ‘changed the definition of gender transformation’ in Bangladesh ‘without using the terms ‘gender or women empowerment.’
Young enthusiasts, cheering Bhasin’s words, said she was their inspiration.
Rubina Jahan, a young psychologist working with a mental health care helpline, said she had come to this event as she found motivation from ‘Kamla’s thought process’.
Twenty-three years old Tasfia Kamal, a student of Dhaka University, said she wanted to see Kamla as “her wisdom and depth can change our perspectives towards life.”
The event ended with a number of pro-women-rights performances including a monologue performed by Tori Chakma, Chandra Tripura and Sangat core group member Muktasree Chakma titled ‘Kalpana’s blood run through our veins’, which struck the audience with a powerful message on indigenous activist Kalpana Chakma.