A professor in economics took the courage to promote women’s rights and on a larger scale to try to change at her level the Indian society
12 / 2001
The reason why Virginia decided to fight for the recognition of women’s rights in India results from her personal experience. The thing is that she lost her husband and was in charge of three children; therefore she had to live by her own meeans. This common situation in Europe was not understood in India. This rejection of a woman living by her self comes from the fact that in India a woman cannot live independently. Indeed in India a woman is through out her life dependent from a man. During their childhood they depend on their father and afterwards on their husband. Virginia emphasized that the main obstacle for the amelioration of the condition of women comes from women themselves. Since they are for such a long time reduced to domestically functions they do not even think of asking the respect of their rights. The deal is that it is normal for them to be in such conditions of inferiority, because it is part of tradition and in India you must respect traditions. One could think that are only concerned women of the lower class.In fact all women of all castes are concerned. In one way this situation could be seen as a factor of federation. The Indian constitution gives expressly the same rights to man and woman. But woman are just not aware of their rights. This lack of information was the starting point of Virginia’s first initiative, which to provide aid and assistance to domestic helpers. In fact domestic helpers have the right not work at least four days per month. In reality they never stop working. The could only stop working for a very serious matter .So Virginia took the decision to meet these women in order to inform them on their rights. After six month of discussion Virginia managed to make them understand that they had the right to have four days of holidays and she gave them the courage to go see their employers and ask for the respect of their rights. Afterwards she decided to be more effective in her work; therefor she integrated the commission for woman, which is part of the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of India. Thus she could have the benefit of the organization and logistical means of the Church. The action of the commission covers India but also all the Far East. You can assimilate her work to a legal adviser. She gathers legal information’s on woman rights, which are sent to the different parishes. So the parish plays the role of a center of information and dialogue, where women can speech freely The Commission requires also the work of lawyers in order to obtain some kind of legal legitimate.
Nowadays Virginia felt an evolution of the mentalities among the young women. They still have to get married but if they feel oppressed or exploited they ask the divorce; an unbelievable situation not so far ago. Virginia stressed out that the solution was education. It is only by educating men and women to a mutual respect that we can obtain sustainable results.
Virginia Saldanha Commission for woman-Catholic Bishop’s Conference of India. B/4 Pearl Queen North Avenue Santa Cruz Mumbai-400054 India E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
This file was made in an interview at the World Assembly, Lille, France, dec.2001.
Interview with SALDANHA, Virginia