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Interview: Dr Patricia Mohammed on Indo Caribbean Women

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In The West Indies countries, the people of Indian diaspora make a significant percentage. They arrived here more than 130 years back as indentured labor in sugarcane plantations from India. They constitute what many term as Indo-Caribbean community.- NewsGram

Dr Patricia Mohammed, in an interview, spoke on the status of Indo Caribbean women. Dr Mohammed is currently Professor of Gender and Cultural Studies and Campus Chair, School for Graduate Studies and Research at the University of the West Indies, St Augustine, and Trinidad.

She is also a pioneer in second wave feminism and the development of gender studies at Tertiary level in the Caribbean and has been involved in feminist activism and scholarship for over two decades in Cultural Studies.

The Interview will be published in The Journal of International Women’s Studies (2016). Below are a few excerpts from it:

One purpose of this interview in this column is to bring more visibility to Indo-Caribbean women in the region, whom arguably, have been marginalised in almost every domain of life, including the domestic sphere.

The current regime in Guyana has only a few Indian women in its Cabinet.  This is not encouraging to young inspiring Indian women who want to pursue a career in politics.

Lomarsh Roopnarine (hereafter LR): One of the most interesting debates on Indo-Caribbean women is whether or not their indentured experience has led to more freedom than in India or they simply exchanged one oppressed environment for another. In other words, are Indian women better off in the Caribbean than in India?

Patricia Mohammed (hereafter PM): Indian women benefitted from migration in many ways. Many were leaving lives of destitution or in fear of violent husbands and as unpaid and undervalued help in households and perhaps living under conditions that offered them little hope of advancement for themselves and their offspring within their lifetimes.

They were brought into a system that offered advantages of being wage earners in their own right and being in much shorter supply than men. For the entire period of indentureship to the Caribbean, the female population constituted between 25 to at most 40 per cent of the male population.
The rules pertaining to arranged marriages, dowries and female virginity in India rapidly underwent change as femininity was a more prized commodity and they were able to bargain for greater power in many spheres.

LR: Do you think that women entered into a new caste/class system in the Caribbean?

PM: Migration offered Indians the possibility of challenging the fixed caste system from which they were drawn although there emerged another caste hierarchy mediated by a parallel class system that the migrants would be fitted into in the new society.

Women perhaps had greater flexibility with the caste system as, again, being in short supply, caste endogamy could no longer be binding. At the same time, women were also vulnerable as a result of their sex. We are not sure how many women were at risk of unwanted attentions on plantations from overseers and sirdhars (headman on the plantation) but this would have been one of the new threats they faced in the Caribbean, although I am sure there was no shortage of this in India itself.

The difference in the new society was that the family and village network that provided protection was not available in the earliest days of the indenture and both men and women were more vulnerable as migrants always are…

LR: What are some newly emerging trends and thoughts on Indo-Caribbean?

PM: Even as we speak, there are new groups of Indians entering, under different migration schemes, changing the landscape of what is constituted as Indo-Caribbean.

Hajima Degia, a scholar at Cave Hill Barbados, has for instance written about the new migration of Gujarat populations into this society, while in Trinidad, groups of commercial and professional Indians are settling into the society.

So the first thing is that we cannot constitute Indians as a homogeneous group who travelled on the same ships around the same time.
The second trend might be the real class differences, between and among the very wealthy and entrepreneurial class, the professional classes who comprise part of the expanded middle class especially in Trinidad and those who still survive barely above the poverty line. These exhibit vast differences in values, cuisine choices, vacation destinations and so on.

The third trend might be the antagonism again between two ideological groups within the Indian communities, those who feel that they have remained and should remain “authentic” to received values and religious traditions from Indian that has not been tainted by western mores and those who view their birth and presence in a multicultural western society as allowing them to combine the best of both worlds, the home as a safe culturally-defined Indo-Caribbean space, the world as the mixture of many cultures that they contend with on an everyday basis…

The significance of this interview in this context is that it adds to Dr Baytoram Ramharack’s series on the Indian mind as well as providing alternative discussions and discourses on Indo-Caribbean women. (Image source: cooliewomen.com)

(The article was first published in guyanatimesgy.com)

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Copyright 2016 NewsGram

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Mallika Sherawat Wants To Be The Voice Of Women Who Don’t Have One

She wants to inspire women across the country through her story on facing her stalker in ZEE5's anthology series

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Mallika is also supporting a plant-based nutritional tour in medical schools across India. The first part started in Bhopal on July 26 and went on till August 7.
Mallika is also supporting a plant-based nutritional tour in medical schools across India. The first part started in Bhopal on July 26 and went on till August 7.

Mallika Sherawat is bold, fearless and outspoken. The actress, who works closely with an organisation that fights against human trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation of children, says she wants to be the voice of women who don’t have one and that activism is important for her.

She was teargassed and beaten up in her Paris apartment in 2016. She also had to deal with a “crazy terrible stalker”.

Does she fear for her life?

“I can’t stop living my life. What’s good if I don’t get to use my voice for the cause that I believe in? I believe in women empowerment and to be the voice for women who don’t have a voice.

“I get mails from Haryana… from women saying, ‘Show us the way’. They want to make something of their life. My activism is very important to me,” Mallika told IANS on the phone from Mumbai.

She wants to inspire women across the country through her story on facing her stalker in ZEE5’s anthology series, “The Story”.

Talking about the episode of the digital project, she said: “It was kind of reliving the nightmare, but it was important for me to speak up about the experience. In India, a lot of people think that the life of a famous person is very simple… but actually, it’s not. We all have our own challenges and problems.

“I had this crazy, terrible stalker. Also, what’s happening in India right now with all these gang rape cases… there is a need to take self-defence seriously.”

Recalling the incident, the “Murder” actress said: “This took place a few years ago in Mumbai. This crazy guy was against the idea of me wearing short skirts. He said ‘You are going against your culture. Women like you should be put behind bars’.

“My clothes were an obsession for him. He just couldn’t believe that a girl from Haryana could wear short skirts and that too on screen. I know that regressive mentality towards women exists, but I didn’t know that it could go this far.

“I think, for him, it was like, ‘I am going to set her right. I am going to teach her the value of wearing a sari’. He even had a gun with him. I talk about women’s rights. He just didn’t want me to speak. He hated what I stood for — independent, modern Indian women. That guy was put behind bars.”

She is positive that the audience, especially women, will relate to it because a “lot of women are facing harassment” at work and at home.

Mallika sherawat visits twitter HQ
Mallika sherawat visits twitter HQ. Pixabay

“I have faced harassment. It is a very common thing with women,” she said.

Mallika has also got the rights to adapt “The Good Wife”, an American legal and political drama TV series, for Indian audiences.

“Again, it is a women’s empowerment show. By the end of this year, we will start shooting for it. I will play the central character,” she said.

“It will be shot in India in Hindi. I am really excited to share it with the Indian audience. I think the time is right,” added the actress, who featured in the American show “Hawaii Five-0”.

Mallika has made frequent appearances on the Cannes Film Festival’s red carpet. She has also featured in Chinese films like “Time Raiders” and “The Myth”.

She feels proud that the audience abroad “absolutely loves Bollywood”.

Also read: Across Asia’s Borders, Survivors Of Human Trafficking, Dial in for Justice

“Bollywood is really making its presence felt abroad. A lot of Indian actors are working abroad. They love musicals of Bollywood as they are so unique. Now, realistic cinema is also coming from Bollywood. They help to form a good image for Bollywood.” (IANS)