Gangtok: The women’s wing of the Joint Action Council organized an all-party discussion for organizations and individuals on the topic of “Women as Social Reformists” on Saturday, to commemorate International Women’s Day on March 8.
The discussion had the participation of the ruling alliance party, Bharatiya Janata Party. However, the ruling front, Sikkim Krantikari Morcha, was absent from the discussion.
Other participants included the opposition Sikkim Democratic Front party, Citizen Action Party, Sikkim Pradesh Congress Committee, and social worker Mayal.
Edu Tshering, one of the panellists with no political affiliation, spoke at length about the need to encourage more women to participate in sports. She posed a question to the other panellists, “How many of you encourage your daughters to take up weightlifting or other sports? Sports organizations are predominantly male-dominated, and the representation of women in such fields is a farce. This has been the case since the dawn of democracy. Men now fear me because of my strength. Patriarchy continues to exist in our homes, with many restrictions placed on women. Apart from politics, women need to speak up about the various social constraints that they face.”
Social activist Mayalmit Lepcha emphasized the importance of women stepping forward for equal representation in all spheres. “It is high time we do so, and our male counterparts need to understand this. Even with the recent Income Tax exemption for women married to individuals outside the state, I believe that women must work towards greater economic freedom so that they do not have to depend on men for their freedom and financial well-being.”
Representing the BJP party, General Secretary Srijana Thapa spoke about the party’s ideologies and asserted that the BJP listens to the concerns raised by its women cadres. Thapa stated that there is an adequate representation of women in leadership positions, including the Indian President and the Parliament.
However, Thapa also mentioned that they have to seek permission from the party’s high command to address certain concerns.
When asked about the Income Tax exemption and the Inner Line Permit implementation in Sikkim, the BJP General Secretary declined to comment.
Representing the opposition SDF party, Dilu Dahal asserted that the party’s ideologies often prevent women from speaking out. She noted that even in the panel discussion, many other party representatives were hesitant to speak on certain issues because of restrictions imposed by their party’s high command.
Dahal stated, “Women have yet to realize their own strength. We are often restrained from speaking on behalf of the party, and we should not remain in a party if we are not allowed to speak. We must not be confined and should resign if necessary. In the SDF, we are not bound in this way, and the day it happens, I will leave the party.”
Bina Sharma, the newly-formed Citizen Action Party Youth President, highlighted the CAP’s efforts to encourage women to hold party executive positions, such as Youth President.
She stated that the party is striving to bring about change by challenging the common belief that only men should represent the youth. Sharma emphasized that CAP does not believe that a separate wing for women is necessary, and instead advocates for women’s economic independence and increased participation in policymaking and state assemblies as the true measure of women’s empowerment.
Sharma concluded by saying that every ideology stems from politics and that without it, nothing can work.
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Representing the Sikkim Pradesh Congress Committee as a social worker, Sunmit Targain discussed the various issues of child and domestic violence faced by women in Sikkim and highlighted the aid provided to women in the region.
Targain shared that their organization is providing vocational training such as tailoring and other activities to women in Sikkim. She acknowledged the existence of disparities at home and in society and noted that women are often subjected to discrimination in various fields, including politics.
She also highlighted the discrimination between sons and daughters that exists in many households. However, she noted that there has been a positive change in mentality over the past decade.
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