February 8, 2009
I am Nimisha, a warm, affectionate and passionate woman living in Vadodara, Gujarat, India. I love to identify myself as the daughter of Mother Earth and to relate to all as my fellow beings, beyond borders and boundaries.
Nimisha means a moment – my life’s ideology too gels with my name very well as I try to enjoy life to its fullest, taking every moment, every day as it comes; as a journey which is an admixture of pain and joy, struggles and fulfillment. My life is full of challenges – one, being a single mother of a 20 year old daughter and two, being a feminist and founder-coordinator of OLAKH a feminist group pitted against patriarchal power structures. This brings many challenges in personal and professional life, while questioning day to day discriminative practices and belief system in our society. Many a times it is a lonely journey in isolation but my passion lies in evolving, exploring and re-visiting various aspects of life. I have also realized that if one follows her inner voice, there are always opportunities coming ones’ way to fulfill ones’ dreams AND CREATE ONES’ OWN ‘IDENTITY’ – This indeed makes us extremely rich and fills our entire life with satisfaction and joy.
Though the society gives lots of pain and the journey is proverbial one step ahead and four steps back, some persons in the same society recognize our effort and provide opportunities to join hands. This is the reason that we are all together here from different corners of the world and are looking forward to relieving each other of their cares and pains and bringing energy, joy and well-being to each other in a warm, caring and supportive environment.
In this same world I have been given the responsibility of being a member of the steering committee for women empowerment of the Indian Planning Commission; I had also been selected as a Fulbright fellow and awarded the Ashoka fellowship. I am founder board member of a feminist women’s group - Olakh, and I have got an opportunity to work from grass-root level to International forums. Last but not the least our work has been lauded with the Human Rights award at Weimar in Germany.
All this was made possible not because of my background or academic qualifications but due to the support of my dear fellow beings and blessings of women who have shared their struggles with me.
Yes, my dreams are different
That’s why my path is thorny,
But dreams are never impossible
They only have to be captured,
Through courage, sheer hard work and determination.
I have been working since 20 years in the development field with urban, rural and tribal communities with a special focus on poor and marginalized women and associated with the women’s movement more than 15 years and has extensive experience in training in raising feminist consciousness with gender sensitization and coordinating various programs. I have part of various researches on mental Health, Identity of women, marginalized women’s perception towards safety and security etc. I am also on the Board of various organizations call Shaisav, Jagori, Sharda Mahila Vikas etc... Furthermore, I have translated various books on feminism, gender, etc. in local language Gujarati. All this was made possible not because of my back-ground or academic qualifications but due to the support of my dear fellow beings and blessings of women who have shared their struggles with me.
About Our group Olakh:
Olakh meaning ‘Identity’ is a Feminist Resource, Documentation and Counseling Center. It is a warm, safe, secure, confidential, nonjudgmental, non-sectarian, and knowledge-based space to share and nurture joy, to have dialogue, to give and get support in moments of helplessness and isolation.
Our effort is to create spaces for women to mutually share, learn, grow and assert their identities with pride and dignity. Olakh is open to everyone-to raise a voice against discrimination, violence and injustice and work towards a better society. Olakh's work revolves around two concepts: ‘Jagya’ (Space) and ‘Samvad’ (Dialogue).
Since history irrespective of varied backgrounds women face violence and discrimination right from their wombs to their tombs! Women are used as battlefields to insult men, community, religion, and nations. We women are systematically discriminated against; our identity and status derive from our fathers, brothers, husbands, but not from our own qualities, abilities and achievements. And this is justified with cultural, religious and scientific ideas and patriarchal mindset.
Olakh a Space for Women was born in a struggle to address and support women. It started from humble meanderings in the context of the women's movement in India. After exhaustive voluntary efforts for three years, in 1996 the foundation stone was laid, keeping in mind the violence, discrimination and injustice that exists in society against women.
Olakh meaning 'identity' has become our expression of a new voice, a new meaning, a new definition... It reflects our concern with issues of multiple identities and questions discrimination and injustice based on identities related to gender, religion and ethnicity.
Feminist ideology is the foundation of our work and a source of inspiration to continue our struggle for liberation and equality without prescribed identities being the determining factor. As feminists we talk about women's rights as human rights and of equality and freedom with dignity for all. We see feminism as a path of empowerment, actualization, spiritual development and ultimate realization. We at Olakh promote inter-community engagement with a culture of co-existence and non-violence leading to holistic development.
Main activities or aims of the organization:
To create a humane society which affirms diversities and equity, celebrates inclusion and complementarities and moves towards sustainable peace and development.
To centre-stage feminist perspectives and practices to challenge existing structures and systems of discrimination and dominance (systems of patriarchy, caste, class, and racism)
To create new forms of human relationships and corresponding institutions based on a Feminist World-View.
• Issue based resource centre with Library
• Counselling and intervention centre with healing and support and Helpline
• Collective initiative for justice at doorstep
• Emergency interventions in disasters with women centred approach
• Dialogues, workshops, trainings and seminars,
• Action based research and campaigns for advocacy and networking
Our annual outreach:
1,200 women and girls, survivors of structural, domestic and sexual violence and emotionally – mentally disturbed served by counseling and intervention through a toll free telephone helpline and collective initiative for justice at door step.
600 Students, researchers and academicians and 479 marginalized literates and neo-literates served by mobile, mini libraries and reading workshops through resource centre and libraries.
20 regular placement students and trainees served from national and international educational institutions.
500 grass root and middle level activists, professionals and interested individuals from Government and Non-governmental organization (NGO) and society at large served through trainings, workshops and seminars.
5000 families from marginalized and minority communities served through relief, rehabilitation and reconciliation, leading to conflict transformation.
50 women survivors trained as change agent – barefoot counselor and lawyers to create a parallel collective justice mechanism.
50,000 people through mass programs – campaigns, advocacy and networking.
500 regular visitors to our organization
Our Challenges – through the 10 years journey of Olakh, we realized that as a feminist organization, the biggest problem for us is an over-arching and ever-penetrating Patriarchy and all it’s varied manifestations. Their controls are so strongly embedded and accepted in our society that what is identified as a problem by us is seen as a normal way of functioning for most people including women in society. Also our work is both challenging and difficult, for it advocate women’s rights as well as minority’s safety and security in face of existing power equations which are heavily tilted towards patriarchal and religious norms as well as rightist ideologies that accentuate religious and caste differences and promote gender inequities. In short we have pitted ourselves against the power structures.
Name of our group: Olakh a space for women
A Feminist Resource, Counseling and Training Center
Address: 8 – A, Nivruti Colony, Opp. Jilla Talim Bhavan, Karelibaug, Vadodara – 390 018. Gujarat (INDIA)
Phone: 91 – 265 – 2486487, 2466037
Fax: 91 – 265 – 2466037