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Workshop on - Breaking the Silence - Bihar Unit.

Updated: Jul 4, 2018

The regional meeting of the Bihar unit of Indian Christian Women’s Movement was held on 15, October 2017 at Navjyoti Niketan, Patna. 35 Women from different Christian denominations were present for the workshop.

Mrs Asren Guria (Baptist Church) was the moderator for the day. Sr. Jane SCN- coordinator of Mahila Sangh led the group in prayer. Sr. Dorothy pvbm then welcomed the participants and gave a brief introduction to the programme.

Sr. Leena began by sharing her grassroots experiences of being in Bhaktiarpur and how in a day she had three cases coming to her where young girls were sexually abused. The consequence of opening their mouths and breaking the silence was shared; the pain that they went through, the attitude of the police and the general public were stories that touched the women. It is when we women are able to recognize oppression and speak out, only then will there be a change. To reinforce the need to break the silence, a clip of 15 minutes was viewed. There was an interactive conversation and the women were invited to think of their daughters and their own future.

After tea break Sr. Jyotisha SND invited the gathering to understand their identity as Christian women and followers of Jesus. Jesus came to restore the lost dignity of every human person and He had a special place for women in His heart. Through various scripture passages she explained Jesus’ dealings with women and how the human person is at the heart of Jesus’ message. She pointed out that Jesus was always on the move, being present where people are, mingling with them, breaking the law where necessary to reach out and heal. It is an invitation for us to reflect on the practices that enslave us and to replace them with liberating practices.

Ms. Seema from Prayas Bharati began by sharing her experiences of rescuing girls from the clutches of being trafficked. After counseling them they have enabled them to enter the mainstream and are now living with dignity. She imparted a very important message that whatever we need to say should be spoken gently and with love. We must be firm when we demand something. She shared how when she enters the police station and intervenes in cases, she is always able to get them to do justice to the victims. In her personal life she has broken many barriers, as a single mother, she has adopted a girl child and is convinced that unless we speak, who will? She encouraged the women to speak out.

Mrs. Virginia Saldanha from Mumbai introduced ICWM to the group. She shared how ICWM came to be, its vision, objectives and its area of work. She explained how women have to examine the discriminatory elements in culture and discuss in groups how to bring about change. She also pointed out to various examples in the gospels in which Jesus reached out to liberate women from injustice and discrimination. The session was very interactive.

The women were invited to reflect and share on the following questions:

1. What is it that prevents us from speaking out?

2. What are the strategies that we need to adopt to become empowered women.

The plenary session was facilitated by Sr. Dorothy. What emerged from the groups were classified under two headings – personal and group.

On the personal front, the women shared that often they do not speak out of fear – unable to bear the consequences e.g. if you lodge a complaint then a case is filed and perhaps not economically sound to follow it up; others shared that the socialization process has been so internalized that they feel that they cannot move out of the framework they find themselves in; family pressure and the inability to take independent decisions; church teachings that we should forgive also plays a very important role in their lives. However, they came to the realization that though they follow these practices, yet they are growing in awareness of the fact that there should be no discrimination among their children. Each of them were invited to take one area and try to work on it because unless they make a shift in their mindset, nothing will change.

On the group level they shared that many of the issues they mentioned above cannot be resolved as individuals unless there is a backing of a group. There was a unanimous decision that they need to be organized and have belongingness to a group. So they were asked, “would you be ready to join ICWM?” All the women present decided to join ICWM.

In order to call for the next meeting and to keep the ball moving, a core committee was put in place – representatives from different localities were named and seconded. For the present Sr. Dorothy will call for the next meeting sometime in November and then at that meeting there will be chosen office bearers who will take up the responsibility and also collect the membership.

During the short evaluation women shared that they were very happy with the proceedings of the day. It was very informative, participative and different modules helped them enter easily into the theme of the workshop. They suggested that such gatherings should happen quite frequently as it is important that when they take time off and come together they learn much.

Mrs. Agnes proposed the vote of thanks and expressed her deep appreciation on behalf of all to the women gathered that the day was very profitable and every speaker and the topic was well dealt with.

Dorothy Fernandes pbvm


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