Uttar Pradesh Festival Honors Unsung Feminists from Region’s Past

Sanatkada’s annual weaves and crafts festival being held at the Baradari complex in in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, on Feb. 6.

Sanatkada’s annual weaves and crafts festival being held at the Baradari complex in in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, on Feb. 6.

LUCKNOW, Uttar Pradesh — Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh, was buzzing with activity in recent days as Sanatkada, a well-known nonprofit in the city for women has been hosting its annual handicrafts festival, where vendors from across India come to sell their goods.

Aside from shopping, the festival, which began in 2010, offers musical and theater performances, panel discussions on literature and music, carnival rides for children and food from some of Lucknow’s most popular eateries. This year, however, the festival organizers decided to use this popular event to talk about one of the biggest topics in India today — feminism.

For the festival’s theme, “Feminists of Awadh Par Salaam,” the organizers reviewed the achievements of iconic women of Awadh, the historical region in the center of modern-day Uttar Pradesh. They chose 37 women from the region’s past to commemorate during the five-day festival, which ended Monday.

Madhavi Kuckreja, the C.E.O. and founder of Sanatkada, said part of the motivation to have a female-focused festival was the fact that women are rarely mentioned in local history.

“You certainly won’t have a chapter in a textbook about them,” she said. “Their birthdays, their death days — nothing is marked. There’s not even a road named after them. So how does a new generation of people in the mainstream know about them? Otherwise they just get forgotten.”

The women’s movement in India has attracted global attention since the December 2012 gang rape of a 23-year-old student in Delhi and subsequent protests concerning violence against women. But violence against women is distinct from the understanding of feminism itself, said Ms. Kuckreja.

Such violence is a general human rights violation, she said. “But what about just leading a life differently? That’s something that also has to be recognized as an issue for women,” she said. “It’s not only one fight. It’s a fight about general mobility.”

This fight for mobility and freedom — whether it was from within a professional or personal sphere — is how the women honored at the festival earned their title as feminist. All of the “Feminists of Awadh” did something differently that made them stand out for their time….

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