Saturday, January 28, 2006

Stamped Impressions
Champion of women’s cause
Reeta Sharma

Dr Aruna GoelThe Centre for Women’s Studies and Development (CWSD) at Panjab University was one of the first five centres on women’s studies established by the University Grants Commission in 1987. Since Dr Aruna Goel took over as the department chairperson two years ago, the centre has witnessed all-round development.

Goel, Chairperson of the Department of Sanskrit, assumed the additional honorary charge of the CWSD on March 1, 2004. In less than two years, she has moved closer to fulfilling the objectives with which the centre was established.

Before Goel took over, the centre was offering a PG diploma course in women’s studies. She got the course upgraded to a Master’s degree with four semesters. In addition, a doctorate in women’s studies has also been sanctioned. It is significant to note that in North India, Panjab University is the only university to give a Master’s and PhD in women studies. The syllabus of the Master’s degree course has been updated, inter-disciplinary and practical application based on sound theory. The course also makes dissertation and project work compulsory.

Goel and the faculty members of the centre have attended many workshops on issues related to women. There has been regular interactions with the British Council of India (BCI), Indian Council of Social Sciences Research (ICSSR), Department of Women and Child Welfare under the Ministry of HRD and National Institution of Public Co-operation and Child Development (NIPCCD).

The way she has guided the course of the Centre for Women’s Studies and Development is amazing. That she continued with her full time job of teaching at the Department of Sanskrit even though she had the option of delegating her work is ample proof of her commitment.

Goel also conducted four training courses to build confidence among the trainees. The first training session was of trainers in rural and urban governance as provided in the 73rd and 74th Amendment of the Constitution. Women who took part in the training were not only imparted knowledge and skills about governance but also trained to assert themselves.

The centre also conducted yet another training of elected municipal women councillors. Since a majority of these councillors were first timers, the training made them aware of their role and rights and instilled confidence in them. Similarly, 300 anganwadi workers of Chandigarh were trained in five different batches.

Yet another training programme on "Gender Equity through Women Entrepreneurs" was organised in which 35 women, including housewives and students from local colleges and Panjab University, participated. Goel invited five successful women entrepreneurs to address this batch. These included a housewife who was earning lakhs by making chocolates from her home and supplying these to various stores. A girl from Dhanas village revealed how she was earning a handsome amount by producing packaging material for various factories. Representatives of banks were also there to offer loans to women for starting their own business venture.

A seminar on ‘Violence against Women with Special reference to Punjab’ was also organised at the centre. As many as 47 papers were received for this seminar which are now been published in a book with grant from the UGC. She has made the International Women’s Day on March 8 an annual feature at the centre.

A play on the plight of women by veteran playwright and director Sardar Gursharan Singh was also staged on the campus. The research officer’s post has been converted into that of a full-time lecturer and another full-time lecturer’s post has been created. Besides, a library science expert and a computer specialist have been added to the department.