SHAKTI, the women'swing of Vijnana Bharati, conducted a national conference of women scientists and technocrats in Kochi, Kerala. A report by Dr S. Ashaletha
“IN your opinion, what is needed for empowering our women?? one person asked Swami Vivekananda. ?Who am I to tell that? Neither you nor me should tell it. Let the women decide what they need.? This was the response of Swamiji.
At the national conference?Women Scientists/Technocrats: Opportunities and Challenges?organised by Shakti, the women'swing of Vijnana Bharati (a national science movement), women spoke of what they do and what they need to progress. Shakti organised the three-day conference in collaboration with various R&D organisations and universities like Central Plantation Crops Research Institute (ICAR), Regional Research Laboratory (CSIR), Avinashilingam Institute for Home Science and Higher Education for Women (Deemed University), Sugarcane Breeding Institute (ICAR), and Kerala Agricultural University at St. Teresa'sCollege, Ernakulam, Kerala, from June 23, 2006.
This conference provided a platform to dwell on all the issues of vital importance for achieving prosperity for women in and through science and technology. While highlighting the contributions made by women technocrats and the obstacles they face, the conference also acted as an eye-opener for the scientists to comprehend the technological needs and difficulties of the women entrepreneurs when they presented their needs and problems on the same platform.
The conference had four main sessions. In the first session, the women scientists presented their significant contributions on the role of women scientists/technocrats in the S&T advancement of the country. In the second session, problems of women scientists/technocrats were highlighted. In the third session, technological lacunae of women workers in organised and unorganised sectors were presented by their representatives. During the fourth session, experts? views on problems of working women were presented. In the last session for identifying new frontiers of research for women scientists/technocrats, frontier areas indicated by eminent scientists as well as the field problems presented by the end-users of technology were taken as inputs. Thus, it was a two-way process where the technology-generators as well as the technology-users at grass-root level exchanged their strengths and weaknesses.
Finally, in the brainstorming session, a future action plan was formulated in discussion with scientists, technocrats, entrepreneurs and representatives of training and development organisations like Khadi & Village Commission, Industrial Fisheries Project (GoI), District Industrial Centre and Krishi Vigyan Kendra.
On the part of women scientists and technocrats, it was decided to make a collaborative effort rather than an individual-oriented action. Establishment of a network of women scientists was also decided to share information and to support for tackling problems as well as boosting professional growth. Policy suggestions like patch up the slowdown of service due to motherhood, equal opportunity for career enhancement programmes, exemption from transferring women to distant areas during early stages of motherhood, etc, were also suggested. It was also decided to form a panel of experts to provide their technical consultancy for the overall development of women in the country. A database of women scientists was also decided to be generated.
For addressing the problems of women entrepreneurs, it was decided to undertake a detailed investigation to assess the technological lacunae of working women in sectors where women form the major chunk of labour. Efforts would be made to disseminate information on new avocations to the women in rural areas. Intensive efforts are to be made to impart entrepreneurship development training and it was also decided to take up workable integrated projects to prepare the rural women through appropriate location-specific technology for initial attempts in coir, fisheries and textile sectors.
The conference was inaugurated by Mayor, Prof Mercy Williams. Smt Minnie Mathew, Chairman, Coconut Development Board, Shri P.N. Subramaniam, President, Swadeshi Science Movement and retired Deputy Director, VSSC, Dr Jayasree Sukumaran, State President, Shakti (retired Collegiate Education Deputy Director), Dr. C.P. Tara, Advisor, Shakti, and Sister Teresa, St. Teresa'sCollege, spoke on the occasion. More than 150 delegates attended the conference. And representatives from more than 16 organisations such as VSSC, Defence Research & Development Organisation, National Physical & Oceanographic Laboratory, Government of India, Avinashilingam Institute (Deemed University), Sugarcane Breeding Institute (ICAR), Central Plantation Crop Research Institute (ICAR), Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (ICAR), Kerala Agricultural University and St. Teresa'sCollege also attended the conference.