Welcome to Sahiyar and the University of Wisconsin's digital archive of grassroots feminist posters from India. India has been home to a vibrant women's movement (or rather women's movements) with a global influence. Historically, grassroots women's organizations -- initiated and sustained by farmers, students, workers and housewives alike -- have been the backbone of the women's movement. These groups have had a vast repertoire of communication strategies for creating awareness, mobilizing support, and protesting against injustice. However, posters have been one of the most widely and effectively used communication media. The poster collection represented in this archive is physically located in the offices of the feminist organization, Sahiyar. Members of Sahiyar have designed and produced some of these posters. Many others they have collected from different women's groups and feminist organizations from all over India. These posters are not simply beautiful pieces of material culture created by individual artists. Most of the posters are the outcome of a collective political process in which community members, activists, students, and/or survivors brainstorm together to translate a deep social concern into words and images. Even though posters have been widely produced and used in the women's movement, few organizations have preserved or documented them systematically. When posters are lost to decay or simply gather dust in storerooms or cupboards of individual organizations, they are lost to future generations who wish to engage with the material aspects of historic moments characterized by struggle and social change. Sahiyar has done a commendable work in collecting and preserving these posters over three decades and University of Wisconsin-Madison extends this work further by supporting preservation, cataloguing and wider sharing of this rich historical material.
Growing from India's autonomous women's movement, in 1984 a group of students from the Maharaja Sayajirao University in Baroda, Gujarat created Sahiyar -- a women's empowerment organization. Sahiyar operates from the standpoint that we live in an unequal society. Economic, social, religious, cultural and gender-based inequalities affect all women, but in India they have the most serious impact on Dalit, working-class and minority women - who also face marginalization due to their caste and class. Sahiyar contends that women's oppression and exploitation originates from the cultural values and socio-economic structures of society. Humans have created these inequalities and can only eradicate them if all people - irrespective of their gender - participate in the movement for social change. Sahiyar is an organization created by women, for women. Women make all the decisions at Sahiyar but also welcome and receive valuable support from male allies, and from any person who recognizes that we are all tied together in the struggle for liberation. In Sahiyar's mission to empower women and girls in Baroda, organizers facilitate activities around awareness programs that include:
The mission of the Department of Gender and Women's Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison is to expand the understanding and appreciation of women's lives and experiences in both historic and contemporary societies. The department is involved with courses, research, and a wide range of educational programs on and off campus. Social justice is an integral part of research and curriculum in the department.
We acknowledge and thank all the women's groups who shared these posters with us, as well as the women and men who contributed to their creation.
Concept and Coordination: Trupti Shah, Manisha Pathak-Shelat, Christine Garlough
Photography and Design: Viquar Sayed
Translation: Manisha Pathak-Shelat
Data entry: Manisha Pathak-Shelat, Di Wang, Christine Garlough