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Petition to Withdraw the ‘Golden Mother’ Award by the University of Calicut

December 5, 2013

Prof. M. Abdul Salam, Vice-Chancellor, University of Calicut
Members of the Syndicate, University of Calicut

The University of Calicut has recently announced the institution of a ‘Golden Mother Award,’ with the stated objective of highlighting “the contribution of mothers to societal development and nation building and to provide exemplary models to youngsters.” Mothers in the age group of 50+ and who are actively contributing to their domains of service will be considered for awards in eighteen categories such as Art, Literature, Teaching, Social work, Politics, Administration, Media, Sports, Agriculture, Entrepreneurship, Engineering, Medicine, Research, Law and judiciary, Police and Banking, Nominations from educational institutions, trade unions, LSGIs, NGOs and other organizations or from individuals themselves are to be submitted to the Director, Centre for Women’s Studies at the University.

Firstly, this attempt to glorify motherhood is blatantly patriarchal, anti-woman, anti-democratic and a move that pulls society back to the mores of a traditional morality. It implies that a woman’s place is at home and that her principal responsibility (and hers alone) is giving birth to children and rearing them. It pays little heed to contemporary feminist critiques of motherhood as not primarily a biological destiny, one that is made problematic by conditions of poverty, deprivation and societal violence. In ignoring new forms of motherhood and parentage such as adoption, single mothers, and so on, it also upholds elitist, casteist, and patriarchal conceptions of family and womanhood.

Secondly, the award is contrary to the true aspirations of Universities and institutions of higher education. Universities should be engaged in the production and dissemination of knowledge, the enlightened critique of prevailing structures of discrimination and tyranny, and the creation of futuristic values of democracy and equality. Its business is not the affirmation of conventional value systems or the reproduction of situations of inequity through dubious means such as awards and other populist measures.

Thirdly, in associating it with the Centre for Women’s Studies at the University, the award has become a travesty of the very purposes and rationale of the Women’s Studies paradigm in India. It runs completely contrary to the avowed objectives of Women’s Studies such as the development of an interdisciplinary theoretical framework and a perspective to transform other disciplines from feminist perspectives, the formation of planning strategies that account for women’s particular role in the formulation of policy in establishing a just and secular society in India, the creation of scholars and activists to make more visible the issues of women from dalit, tribal, labouring, and minority religious communities, and the empowerment of women in Panchayati Raj Institutions and public institutions including universities and colleges ( see ‘UGC Guidelines for Development of Women’s Studies in Indian Universities and Colleges,’ p. 5).

We understand that strenuous objections to the award have already been raised by the students and teachers of the University, as well as by the wider academic community in the State. In this context, we urge the Vice-Chancellor and the University to desist from going ahead with the Golden Mother Award and withdraw it.


1.    G.Arunima, Centre for Women’s Studies, Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi
2.    Kum Kum Roy, Centre for Historical Studies, Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi
3.    Janaki Nair, Centre for Historical Studies, Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi
4.    Mary E John, Centre for Women’s Development Studies, New Delhi
5.     Anu Aneja, School of Gender and Development Studies, IGNOU, New Delhi
6.    M.S. Sreerekha, S. N. Centre for Women’s Studies, Jamia Millia Islamia,  New Delhi
7.    Meera Velayudhan, Centre for Environment and Social Concerns, Ahmedabad, Gujarat
8.    Veena Poonacha, Research Centre for Women’s Studies, SNDT University Mumbai
9.    Kavita Krishnan, All India Progressive Women’s Association
10.    Trupti Shah, Sahiyar (Sthree Sangathan), Vadodara
11.    Kiran Shaheen, Women for Water Democracy
12.    Medhavinee, Vacha Resource Centre for Women and Girls
13.    Madhu Mehra, Partners for Law in Development
14.    Tejaswini Niranjana, Centre for the Study of Culture and Society
15.    Juhi Jain
16.    Runu Chakraborty
17.    Lata Singh, Delhi University
18.    Kavita Panjabi, Jadavpur University
19.    Meena Seshu, SANGRAM, Sangli
20.    Rohini Hensman
21.    Anita Ghai, Department of Psychology, Jesus and Mary College, New Delhi
22.    Padma Venkataraman (Mangai), Chennai
23.    Ayesha Kidwai, Language, Literature & Cultural Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi
24.    Chhaya Datar
25.    Amrita Nandy, Doctoral Student, Jawaharlal Nehru University
26.    Saumya Uma
27.    Soma K.P.
28.    Neha Dixit, Journallist
29.    Sadhna Arya
30.    Brinda Bose, University of Delhi
31.    Shilpa Phadke, TISS Mumbai
32.    Vasanth Kannabiran, Asmita Resource Center for Women, Hyderabad
33.    Rachana Johri, School of Human Studies, Ambedkar University, Delhi
34.    Kochurani Abraham,
35.    Janaki Abraham, University of Delhi
36.    Preeti Mehra
37.    Nimisha Desai, Olakh, Vadodara
38.    J. Devika, Centre for Development Studies, Trivandrum
39.    Rukmini Sen, Ambedkar University, New Delhi
40.    Sundari Ravindran
41.    Asha.G.
42.    A.K. Ramakrishnan, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi
43.    Manisha Gupte, Pune
44.    Niyati.R.Krishna, Research Scholar, Dept of HSSIIT, Roorkee
45.    Sagari Ramdas, Anthra Hyderabad
46.    Abha Bhaiya, Jagori Grameen Himachal Pradesh
47.    Farah Naqvi, New Delhi
48.    Chayanika Shah, Labia, A Queer Feminist LBT Collective
49.    Kalyani Menon-Sen, Feminist Learning Partnerships
50.    Rajashri Dasgupta, Journalist
51.    Geetha Nambisan, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi
52.    Soumya Vinayan, Council for Social Development Hyderabad
53.    Virginia Saldanha
54.    Susie Tharu
55.    Uma Bhrugabanda, English and Foreign Languages University Hyderabad
56.    Penkoottu, Kozhikode

9 Comments leave one →
  1. December 5, 2013 11:39 PM

    Good venture. Is there an online petition? If so please give the link.

  2. December 5, 2013 11:54 PM

    Hi, Please forgive me if I do not get who are the people raising this protest, I mean are they from the academic circle, from the public or from any particular organization.

    thanks you

    • Nivedita Menon permalink*
      December 6, 2013 10:01 AM

      Take a look at the affiliations after most names. The mystery will be solved :)

  3. Shama Zaidi permalink
    December 6, 2013 10:30 AM

    They should give a brass father award as well.

  4. December 6, 2013 10:37 AM

    The survival of Patriarchy is deeply rooted in Motherhood. No doubt they go to any extent to contain women to that. But its sad to see that a University took part in it.

  5. December 6, 2013 1:55 PM

    Sir, how about a golden father award? As golden as the institution’s idea is, i don’t understand why the man did not think of felicitating a fellow man also in the same way, in the spirit of gender equality and recognising the contribution of fathers in this celebration of parenthood and its achievements? In fact, don’t you think Golden father award should be considered far more necessary than golden mother award? after all, in our conventional set-up, fathers don’t even have the time to get involved in their kids’ lives. While, women are often expected to multi-task while also prioritising their children over anything else. Don’t you think a Golden Father is a bigger achievement in our society than a Golden Mother? (sic) felicitate that!

  6. Mary permalink
    December 6, 2013 3:20 PM

    More endorsements:

    Anandhi S., Madras Institute of Development Studies, Chennai,
    Kavin Malar
    Ramlath Kavil
    Supriya Madangarli
    Geetanjali Gangoli
    Amrita Shodan

  7. December 6, 2013 7:21 PM

    i belong to the school of thought of feminists who do not defy motherhood and who do not believe in equality to men either. we are looking for an alternative society. we want a societal change which will allow all options to both women(and men), depending on their own interests and preferences, as equally good. we do not want to have to choose between motherhood and ‘career’. between reproductive and “productive” work, between unpaid and paid work. we want a society in which all work is recognized as equally important and meaningful and to be honored or recognized through money or other ways which give the women (and the men) the respect and love they deserve as all dignified human beings do. so the question is not to be against the prize because it eulogizes mother’s contributions, but due to this dominant understanding in society that women are born to be good mothers and men to earn money for the family’s upbringing, so long as we do not question this understanding and put in ALL efforts necessary to undo this, it is not advisable to give prizes to mother’s contributions alone..

  8. December 7, 2013 6:40 PM

    Agree with the views of the writers of this letter.-Ujwala Karmarkar(doctor)

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