Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Keynote at Women's Day Opening Celebration, SPMVV Women's University, Tirupathi, India

This evening, while I was out for my walk, I came across the Phys Ed students preparing some cheerleader-style routines for the celebrations to mark International Women's Day. SPMVV is a women's university, so it's only right that they should make a fuss of the event.

Tomorrow begins a three-day international conference organized by the SPMVV Center for Women's Studies. I've been asked to say a few words at the inauguration ceremony and then, on the last day, I'll be chairing one of the conference sessions.

It is shocking that women are exploited just about everywhere in this world of ours. It is time to say ENOUGH!

Enough of human trafficking of women! Enough of the subordination of women in marriage! Enough of unequal opportunities for women in education and jobs! Enough of unequal pay for women who do the same work as men! Enough of women playing second fiddle to men!





Enough… This must not stand.

Men AND women, we ALL must work to stop this abuse of the better half of humankind. From the richest of the rich to the poorest of the poor, male and female, we all have dreams and we all have an equal right to pursue them.

Listen to what the revered Mahatmah Gandhi had to say:


“I shall work for an India,” he said, “in which the poorest shall feel that it is their country, in whose making they have an effective voice, an India in which there shall be no high class and low class of people, an India in which all communities shall live in perfect harmony… There can be no room in such an India for the curse of untouchability… Women will enjoy the same right as men… This is the India of my dreams.”

Actions speak louder than words, and as we all know, Gandhi was a fearless man of action who helped to galvanized this beautiful nation of India in its march to freedom.

This conference, too, is all about action.

This conference is a call on all levels of government to design gender-sensitive budgets. It sounds like a dry topic, doesn’t it? Actually, it’s one that is crucial to achieving a civil society where all citizens can, with equal opportunity, pursue their dreams.

Education is the key, isn’t it? If all the women of this world had the same, equal opportunity to education as men—which they don’t—it would be a much better place for everyone. Education must be free to all and of high quality to all. We need many more schools, many more qualified teachers, so that EVERY child has a seat in a classroom where the teacher-pupil ratio is of a manageable size.

It is absurd that many, many children, especially female children, are kept out of school through no fault of their own. A free, quality education for all is expensive. But the money is there; it’s just that it’s allocated in too many budgets to other priorities.


What greater priority can there be than the education of our children?

I’m no expert on any of this, my friends. I simply have a voice which I choose to use to express my opinion and to help others. When Professor Parvathy, head of the Women’s Studies department at SPMVV, invited me to address the Women’s Day conference at the university, I seized the opportunity to learn about women’s issues beyond what I already know from simply living out my life.


I do have six sisters, after all, so I guess it was a matter of survival for me to listen to what they had to say!

I’ve always admired strong women. I married a strong woman. I’ve lived and worked on five of the world’s continents, and here in India I’ve met, and come to know, more strong women than I have known anywhere else in the world. Strong women like those at this university—students and faculty—who have arrived at where they are in their lives in spite of the many and severe disadvantages that they, and their families, have had to overcome along the way.

I mention families because none of us could be where we are without help, especially when it comes to education.

Women and men together must keep knocking on the doors of the male-dominated corridors of Gender Justice, demanding equal rights and equal opportunity for all. We must not cease to knock until our demands are met--met by deeds, not by empty words.

So I commend Professor Madam Parvathy and her team for organizing this conference. I commend you all for being here to add your voice to theirs. As we celebrate International Women’s Day, may our voices combine with those worldwide to become a cry of rage against the abuses and inequalities that women, to this day, in India no less than elsewhere in this world of ours, continue to endure.

Bernard John Poole, 2016.  All rights reserved.  Last updated March 8, 2016