Prajnya is celebrating women who have been actively engaged in community work.

Invisible no more This Womens Day lets recognise the sheroes in our midstPrajnya Archives
Features Women's Day Wednesday, February 08, 2017 - 17:16

To mark International Women's Day on March 8, Prajnya Archives, an initiative of the The Prajnya Resource Centre on Women In Politics And Policy, will be celebrating women who have been actively engaged in community work.

On the lines of the thematic calls for photo contributions from the public that Prajnya has been making for the last few years, this time around the call is for pictures of women in the space of social development. 

"Innumerable women give their time, resources and efforts to society for a variety of responsibilities from getting garbage collected to taking care of stray animals and homeless people to checking accounts for charities. But they do not talk about their work. They do not receive prizes. They do not give Women's Day lectures. Often, their families barely know what they have been doing," Swarna Rajagopalan, Managing Trustee, The Prajnya Trust, said. 

"We want, through this particular project, to recognise their community work--to save their photos, write down their stories and make sure their names are remembered somewhere, not just as So-and-so Aunty or Such-and-such Didi but as the amazing model citizens who live next door to us. "

Thirty best entries will be showcased in an exhibition later in the year and all entries will be included in the Prajnya Archives. 

It was in 2011 that Prajnya first started calls for photos. The project that year was called "Rainmakers" and featured photographs of women who "made something from nothing, being resourceful for themselves and their people". "Our idea was to draw attention to this quality that women largely have to possess to survive. The response was wonderful," Swarna said. 

"Rainmakers": Aideu Handique, the first heroine of Assamese cinema, Contributor- Nilim Dutta; Prajnya Archives

"Rainmakers": Pratibha Sharma, Contributor- Sakshi Kumar, Prajnya Archives

"Rainmakers": Shanta bai (entrepreneur), Contributor: Shilpa Anand; Prajnya Archives

"Rainmakers": Mythily Sivaraman at the United Nations (New York), 1967, Contributor: K.Kalpana (daughter of Mythili); Prajnya Archives

"Rainmakers": "A woman salvages burnt utensils from the remains of what used to be her house until last evening. On the evening of the 2nd of March, a fire that broke out in the slums on the eastern side of Bandra Station (Mumbai) spread to 500 households and by next daybreak all house were leveled to the ground. The women here had nothing left except for the clothes that they wore; yet they dutifully set out that morning to rebuild their lives and that of their families." This photograph was one of the two photos that were given the first prize that year. Contributor- Prasant Mohanty, Prajnya Archives

The next project was "The First Graduate", which asked people to send photographs of the first female graduate in their families. This project was partly inspired by a photo- of a woman in her graduation gown- that had been sent for "Rainmakers".

"The First Graduate": C.Amba Bai (Photo taken in 1901), Contributor- Laxmi Murthy (great-grand daughter of C.Amba Bai); Prajnya Achives

"The First Graduate": S. Rukmani, Contributor- Bala Murthy (niece), Prajnya Archives

"The First Graduate": Varalakshmi Reddy, Contributor: Saritha Reddy; Prajnya Archives

Along with pictures, many contributors also send accounts of the person in the photo, describing their life, relationships, struggles and achievements. 

Swarna said that while Prajnya also tried to make a similar call for photos of women in leadership roles, the response was "disappointing". "It says something about how little we associate women with leadership that even when women made decisions and took initiative, hardly any of them defined those activities as leadership," she stated. 

Independence Day 2016 saw entries of photos of women, several of whom were around when India got its Independence on August 15, 1947. 

"The Freedom Generation": Anjalai Amma; Contributor- Mangai A. (her granddaughter); Prajnya Archives 

"The Freedom Generation": Dr. Indumathi Venkatesh, Contributor- Indumathi Venkatesh; Prajnya Archives

Speaking about this year's project, Prajnya Archives Curator, Dr. Sudha Rajagopalan, said that the archives help in recognising the works of such women, who may often go unnoticed.

"Women have, historically, played an important role in community work concerned with social development and public welfare. Creating an image archive of women in these specific practices would go a long way in recognising such work as a crucial form of public and political engagement."

To be a part of the Call, contributions from South Asian countries including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Maldives and Myanmar, will have to be sent by March 7, 2017 to archives.prajnya@gmail.com . Entries, should be of high quality (at least 300 dpi), and may include both new and recent photographs as well as scanned, historical images. It should also include the name of the contributor and email id. The name of the woman in the photo, along with the approximate year of birth and a one-sentence description of her work is required. A longer description is optional. 

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