Day 2 — Convergence (Convening 3, New Delhi, India)
Full of thought from our inspiring first day, this morning we continued our quest to understand the Gandhian philosophy and its current application to the fight for women’s rights and social justice in modern-day India. We’re searching to understand how Gandhi’s vision, which is such an important part of the Indian culture, is being translated from theory into practice.
We began the day at Dilli Haat, a large handicraft market in New Delhi. We had the great fortune of spending the morning with Jaya Jaitly, feminist, socialist activist, former politician and brainchild of Dilli Haat. Ms. Jaitly spoke to us about the emphasis Gandhi placed on local craft production as a means of ensuring sustainable communities. She advocated for the creation of the market as a way of bringing Gandhi’s ideals to life and creating demand for Indian crafts. In its 15th year, Dilli Haat provides employment to thousands of people from all over the country and helps to sustain communities.
Ms. Jaitly told us the extraordinary story of how the market came into existence.
She had been advocating for the government to provide the land for the market, but was running up against resistance for providing vast quantities of valuable land to “people who were considered to be beggars.” A local bureaucrat who had been following her efforts offered an innovative solution: he had found a loop hole in the law which said that although the land belongs to the government, the drains belong to the municipality. He offered to cover a gigantic drain and provide the space for the market. Today, this beautiful market and second largest source of tourism dollars in Delhi, sits atop a gigantic drainage ditch and is as much a testament to the power of out-of the-box thinking as it is to the core Gandhian philosophy of local production and mutual dependence.
MEV Cohort with Jaya Jaitly and Ruchira Gupta at Dilli Haat
After doing some shopping at the market to contribute to the local economy, we moved on to an afternoon at the Planning Commission. There we had the distinct honor of meeting with Dr. Sayeeda Hameed, an extraordinary feminist activist with decades of experience working for women’s rights in India. Formerly a member of the national commission for women and at one time the only woman, non-economist on the planning commission, Dr. Hameed arranged to have us meet with over a dozen government officials from various departments working together to address inequality by intentionally applying a gender-lens to a range of social issues. Interestingly, this intersectional approach has been put in place because the previous approach, working in silos and addressing issues in isolation, had proven ineffective.
Dr. Sayeeda Hameed, Planning Commission
MEV Pilot Cohort at Planning Commission
During the discussions this afternoon, we saw a great emphasis placed on this “convergent approach” and were impressed by the scale of the effort to address women’s lived experiences in their totality. This challenge of working in silos felt all too familiar to our group and the sheer magnitude of this government effort to partner across departments was inspiring.
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