Bishop Gerald Lobo Inaugurates ‘Sugamya’ Zilla Okkuta of Udupi District
Udupi: The long-standing dream of women of the Udupi Diocese of the self-help groups right from the unit level to parish level and thereafter the taluk and the District level was realized on Sunday, 10 March 2019. ‘Sugamya’ the Zilla Okkuta of Udupi District was inaugurated on the occasion of the International Women’s Day celebrations. It was one of the chief aims of the Bishop of Udupi Diocese, Dr Gerald Isaac Lobo since the foundation of the Diocese of Udupi six years ago which was fructified under the able leadership of Fr Reginald Pinto, Director of ‘Sampada’, the Social Service Organization of the Udupi Diocese. The Catholic Women’s Organization has been the umbrella organization under which the self-help groups have been developed culminating into the District level Women’s Confederation.
The inauguration of ‘Sugamya’ Zilla Mahila Okkuta and observation of International Women’s Day were jointly organized by the Catholic Stree Sanghattan of Udupi Diocese as well as ‘Sampada’.
The programme commenced with a prayer song presented by women from ‘Ujwala’ Mahila Okkuta of Brahmavar Taluk.
Jannette Barboza-President of Catholic Stree Sanghattan, Udupi Diocese welcomed the guests including Most Rev. Dr Gerald Isaac Lobo; Fr Valerian Mendonca-Dean of Udupi deanery; Gracy Gonsalves-Deputy Director of Women and Children Development Department, Udupi; Sr Zeeta D’Souza-State Convener of Women’s Empowerment Programme(CROSS), Bangalore; Shahnaz M.-Chief Editor of ‘Anupama’ Women’s Magazine; Fr Reginald Pinto-Director of ‘Sampada’; Sr Jannette-Director of Catholic Stree Sanghatta, Udupi Diocese; Past Presidents of Diocesan Catholic Stree Sanghattan and Presidents of Five Taluk level Mahila Okkuta.
In her introductory address, Sr Jannette outlined briefly the history and the aims and objectives of initiating and promoting the self-help groups right from the parish unit level to the district level. She said that empowering women has been one of the chief aims of the self-help groups. She further said that so far throughout the Udupi District women have been active in 456 self-help groups having 6500 members. They are further organized in 50 parish level Okkutas and five taluk level federations, the Arpana Mahila Okkuta, Karkala Taluk, Bhavana Mahila Okkuta, Kundapur-Baimndoor Taluk, Inchara Mahila Okkuta, Kaup Taluk, Ujwala Mahila Okkuta, Brahmavar Taluk and Sharadhi Mahila Okkuta, Udupi Taluk. The Confederation of all these Okkutas is the ‘Sugamya’ Zilla Mahila Okkuta.
A minutes silence was observed to pray for the eternal rest of those soldiers who were martyred at Pulwama recently due to terrorist attack.
Prior to the formal inauguration of ‘Sugamya’ Zilla Mahila Okkuta, three women representatives read passages from the Holy Books, the Bible, Quran and Bhagwadgita. Thereafter, Bishop Gerald Lobo poured a measure of rice into the ‘kalshi’ containing the coconut flower bunch which was unfurled by Sr Zeeta D’Souza, thus officially inaugurating the ‘Sugamya’ Zilla Mahila Okkuta of Udupi District.
In his benedictory address, Fr Valerian Mendonca said that believing in strength in unity, women from five talukas have come together to form the district level confederation of the self-help groups which is greatly appreciable. He expressed gratitude to Almighty God for this opportunity and invoked His blessings on this confederation. Fr Valerian further said that all are children of God and members of the same family as brothers and sisters as was relevant by the reading from the Holy Books of three religions- Hindu, Islam and Christianity. It is a matter of happiness that this confederation is being inaugurated on the occasion of International Women’s Day.
Speaking on the occasion, Gracy Gonslaves, Deputy Director of Women and Child Development Department, Udupi briefly narrated the origin of the celebration of International Women’s Day and how it progressed. The movement began with demanding equality to women along with men including the right to vote in 1910. Empowerment of women in social, economic and political spheres signifies the observance of International Women’s Day. She further said that through the Women and Children Development Department the government aims at organizing, empowering and strengthening women in every respect. However, this task cannot be done solely by the government. When the public and organizations join together, empowerment of women would become a reality. It is a matter of great pride that practically all top officials in Udupi District are women.
Sr Zeeta D’Souza in her speech said that there is a great difference between women of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Earlier women were confined within the four walls of the house. However, in modern times they are spreading in four directions. In modern times, women are involved in various fields of activity some of which were considered to be the sole domain of men. It is sad to know that in spite of all the progress women have been subjected to various atrocities and limitations for which it is important to find solutions. That is why the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day is “Think equal, build smart, innovate for change.” Speaking about the confederation of women at the district level, Sr Zeeta said that the women of Udupi District will not be satisfied with this stage of the development of the organization. They aim at joining the state level confederation. She further said that there are around 200 Women’s Okkutas in the state 25 taluk level Okkutas and 5 Zilla level Okkutas and efforts are being made to establish the state level Mahila Okkuta. There are two banks managed by women; one, in Shivamogga District and the other in Yellapura Taluk.
In her message on the occasion of the International Women’s Day, Shahanaz M, Chief Editor of ‘Anupama’ Women’s Magazine said that she felt very happy to be a part of the programme as she observed the happy faces of beautiful women in colourful sarees. She said that it is mostly the men who have been preventing the empowerment of women. It is a sad fact that female children are prevented from being born. A Lot of girls and women have been facing a lot of problems in the form of domestic and sexual abuses. Hence, the celebration of Women’s Day is meaningless unless women have an opportunity to live a life of respect and dignity and without fear. While appreciating the self-help groups and women’s organizations, Shahanaz said that the first responsibility of every woman should be the welfare of her family which mostly depends on her. If the family is strong and happy, society would be harmonious and progressive.
Bishop Gerald Isaac Lobo along with other dignitaries felicitated the past Presidents of the Diocesan Central Committee of Stree Sanghattan Presidents of five taluk level Mahila Okkutas.
In his presidential address, Bishop Gerald Lobo conveyed his compliments to all the women on the occasion of the observance of International Women’s Day and the inauguration of ‘Sugamya’ Zilla Mahila Okkuta. The Bishop further said that women have an important role to play in society. Realizing the greatness of Indian women, Swami Vivekananda had said that he bows his head to their motherhood and sacrifice. Today, the condition of women has changed. Women have been participating in economic activities and have been supporting their families financially. They have many opportunities in different fields. This is chiefly due to the empowerment of women through the Constitution and education. Socially, economically, intellectually and politically they are becoming more and more conscious and empowered. This empowerment is being streamlined through the self-help groups. It is not enough to organize self-help groups only up to the district level, the next stage should be the state level confederation of all women self-help groups and of a bank in Udupi District level managed only by women.
Delivering the vote of thanks, Fr Reginald Pinto recalled the service of Sr Treeza Martis who did a lot of work in organizing women during the initial stage of developing the self-help groups. Fr Reginald expressed his gratitude to the support and encouragement that he received from Bishop Gerald Lobo in the task of building the self-help groups in the Diocese of Udupi and asked the women to give him a standing ovation for his patronage.
The entire programme was compered by Vinaya D’Costa from Kundapur and Stanley Fernandes, the staff of ‘Sampada’.