The first-ever “Grassroots Feminist Convention: Towards Transformational Leadership” was organised by North East Network, Assam on 26th and 27th March 2023 at CBCNEI, Guwahati. The convention was a two-day event that brought together more than 135 women peer leaders, support group members, community women, weavers and members of NEN youth collective Prayas, from Kamrup (Rural), Golaghat, Dhemaji, Darrang, Sonitpur, Udalguri.The aim of the Convention was to discuss various feminist issues, promote transformational leadership, celebrate feminist solidarity, friendship and sisterhood among grassroots women.
The event was graced by three chief guests, Prof. Joshomayee Devi, Governing Board and General Body Member, NEN, Dr. Monisha Behal, Co-Founder and Chairperson, Governing Board, NEN, and Dr. Roshmi Goswami, Co-Founder, NEN and other special invitees from various departments and institutions.
The event began with an inaugural song, “Dusokut Agoni Jolai,” performed by the support group members of Gramin Mahila Kendra NEN, Udalguri and Darrang.
Dr. Monisha Behal, Dr. Roshmi Goswami, and Dr. Joshomayee Devi, were felicitated during the occasion and they shared insights from their experiences which inspired all the participants.
The event also saw the launch of 3 different publications:
Third issue of ‘Srijani,’ Nari Katha which is a collection of grassroots women’s poems released by Junu Bora, writer and activist.
‘Changing patterns of Climate and Livelihoods in Assam – A Survey’ released by Gita Rani Bhattacharya,Chairperson, Governing Board, NEN.
‘Gender Responsive Shelter Homes: A Trainer’s Manual’ by LCN Network, released by Prof. Joshomayee Devi.
The Convention was elevated by the Gumraag Maaksong Dance, a performance by the Sonitpur team.
The Convention featured two panel discussions-
- “Collective Public Responsibility to End Gender-based Violence against Women,” moderated by Chitralekha Baruah, an activist from Guwahati.
Speakers for the discussion included Junumoni Das from NEN, Kamrup, who spoke on the role of Gramin Mahila Kendra in community response to gender-based violence against women, Laxmi Chetri from The Ant, Chirang, who discussed the mental health implications of gender-based violence, Rubi Bhagawati from the State Hub for Empowerment of Women, Government of Assam, who spoke on the state’s response to gender-based violence.
2. “Women and Agriculture in the context of Climate Change,” also moderated by Chitralekha Baruah.
Speakers for this discussion were Moon Bora from Gramin Mahila Kendra, NEN, Golaghat, who spoke on the climate crisis and changing patterns of agriculture, Dr. Sangeeta Deka Rabha from Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Adarsha Mahavidyalaya, Goalpara, who discussed the change in ecosystem services and its implications, Banamallika Choudhury from WLTC, Guwahati, who highlighted the gendered dimensions of climate change.
The event was a successful celebration of feminist sisterhood, solidarity and leadership, highlighting the issues they face and discussing possible solutions.
The Convention ended with a diverse display of cultural shows-
Musical performance by Dr. Monisha Behal and Arghadeep Baruah, Actor
Zikir performance by Gramin Mahila Kendra NEN, Kamrup.
Mime Act by Nirbaak, Guwahati
Musical duet performance by Babli Basumatary and Darshita Dutta, NEN.
Lengpum Sokchon, a Karbi folk dance by GMK NEN, Golaghat.
Bahurangi, a Rabha folk dance by GMK NEN, Udalguri.
Jeng Bihu by GMK NEN,Dhemaji.
The event ended with Jampai, a fashion parade by women weavers of Saneki Weaves who themselves modeled and showcased their products on stage.
The cultural show added a festive touch to the convention and provided a platform to showcase the rich cultural heritage of the North East region.
Day 2 of the Convention started with a session by Papori Chetia, Additional Superintendent of Police from the Assam Police, on ‘Social Media, Crimes against Women and State Response in Assam.’ She shed light on the role of social media in perpetuating violence against women and how the state is responding to this issue.
The youth groups of Kamrup, Udalguri, Dhemaji, and Golaghat participated in an event on the second day of the convention, titled ‘Towards a Resilient Future: Role of Youth’.
The event kicked off with a powerful poetry recitation “Mrityu-Dondo Asolote Kar Hobo Lage?” by Kamla Bhasin.
A presentation of a study on violence faced by three generations of women and girls was made by Kamrup youth collective.
A puppet show challenging stereotypes around early marriage was performed by Udalguri youth team.
The convention also screened a film titled ‘Journey of Learning – Creating Newer Ways of Dialogue’. Then the Dhemaji youth collective team shared their outcomes of a youth-led initiative on solid waste management.
The day concluded with a street play titled ‘Come say it loudly- AAZADI,’ which focused on the theme of gender-based violence and aimed to encourage people to speak up against inequality and injustice.
The convention brought together experts, activists, artists, writers and community members to discuss issues related to gender-based violence, climate change and its impact on women and livelihoods, and youth leadership, among others, and promote grassroots feminist leadership.