The Centre for Women's Studies in Lady Doak College, was founded in 1989, to initiate, promote and coordinate, teaching, training, research and field action programs in the discipline of women's studies.
Ms. Shanti Manuel (Principal and Secretary-1967-93) conceptualized the idea of a Centre on campus and she together with Ms. Anna Abraham (Professor and Head, Department of History) initiated a course on Women's studies for interested students. Soon afterwards, the team of motivated faculty members, under their leadership, set the stage for the introduction of the mandatory Foundation course on women's studies, for all undergraduate students of Humanities and Sciences. The Rationale for this was that every young woman entering the campus, is first a woman and only then a historian, economist, social scientist or a scientist. The pioneers of this movement rightly thought that these young women must explore the consequences of being a woman in her generation and make that affect her study in a personal way. Since those early days the Centre has grown under the patronage of the different people who were at the helm of affairs in college. It was during Dr. Prema Michael's tenure as Principal and Secretary (1993-96) that the mandatory courses planned by the pioneering group finally took off. Dr. Nirmala Jeyaraj (Principal and Secretary - 1996-2008) introduced different faculty members, from various disciplines, including the Sciences into the world of Feminism and Dr. Mercy Pushpalatha, (Principal and Secretary - 2008-2017) who though not in the group that taught Women's studies, always supported the work of the Centre through innovative ideas for its growth and found avenues where the Centre could make an impact.
A unique specialty of the Centre for Women's Studies is the engagement of Faculty from both the Sciences and Humanities Disciplines of the college to teach the Women Studies' Courses. Students today have a much larger choice in almost everything - courses of study, clothes, gadgets or modes of transportation. On the face of it the women of today seems to be freer and have a greater choice. But if we look a little deeper we find that women essentially still face the problems emerging from the patriarchal society's need to control her - what she wears, what she studies, where she goes, whom she marries and so on. The problem is the same but the manifestations are different - and much more vicious. Eve-teasing has become acid attacks, stalking has become cyber-stalking and a 'No' to a potential suitor ends in murder. What then is the role of a Centre for Women's studies for the students of today?
A new crop of students enter the campus in a world where technology is part and parcel of their day to day life. The Centre for Women's Studies attempts to adapt itself to the emerging situation so as to speak the language of the student in a manner that makes her feel comfortable. It strives to engage the students and faculty members in critically thinking about their role as women in society - a society that talks easily about women's empowerment but very often means it only as a token or to seem politically correct.
We started a forum for students to come together, where they can freely express their wishes, share their agonies, identify the roots of inequality and find the tools to uproot oppressive structures and ideologies. The forum was named by our students as the 'ULIYIN OLI' -(the sound of a shaping chisel) and it has more than sixty members who are active in an online forum. We invite all students to participate in this forum.
The community at Lady Doak College - students, faculty members and the non-teaching Faculty - seek to be different even as they seem to be different and we hope this will percolate to their homes and the society around them as well.
Dr. Beulah JM Rajkumar, Advisor, Centre for Women's Studies.
Former Head, Department of Physics