Archive | February, 2009

Rokeya’s Dream


Explore the world of Rokeya, the unconventional Ladyland ruled by women, and its contemporary connection and influence.

‘The books and religions are nothing but codes of conduct and directives prescribed by men. The rulings given by male sages would have been reversed had they been given by a female sage.’

Rokeya (1880-1932) was a social reformer, educationalist, prolific writer and a campaigner for human rights and gender equality in colonial Victorian India. She came from a village in the north of Bangladesh. Her writings and ideas have strongly influenced the development and emancipation of women in Bangladesh and India.

MAHILA SANGHA (South-East London Bangladeshi Women’s Group) in partnership with Rose Bruford College and TARA Arts presents:

Rokeya’s Dream

Based on the satire Sultana’s Dream written by Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain (1880-1932) and her life and writings, the play will take you on a journey with three young British individuals and their path of discovery into Rokeya’s life and the stories of womens’ tribulations in the early 1900s in colonial Victorian Bengal  – delving into cultural choices, social pressures and overcoming extraordinary obstacles.

Rokeya was brought up in strict purdah, education was forbidden. Yet she crossed all barriers. A forward thinking visionary, influential writer and social reformer she even spoke of a sustainable environment and solar energy hundred years ago!

Join us in acknowledging this great woman’s fight and the rewards reaped from her struggle in empowering women and promoting education in South Asia. Come and experience Rokeya’s Dream.

Directed by: Mukul Ahmed
Script by: Rae Leaver

I looked at Rokeya
The inspiration she brought
Over a century later
For everything she fought

Don’t learn your language
To evil it will lead
Stay behind seclusion
Unable to read

Purdah and veil
The order of the day
Imposed by religion
That is what men say

Freedom! Oh Freedom!
We suffocate in the dark
Oppressed by men
But we did make our mark

Women magistrates and judges
If only we could be
But we have done better
Just look round and see

Don’t you oppress us
We demand our right
In Rokeya’s Ladyland
Men couldn’t rule with might

You dreamt of cohesion
Among women of all creed
Together we will work
To create the world we need

by Shaheen Westcombe MBE
Executive Committee Member
The Gandhi Foundation

US Congress Recognizes Gandhi

The US House of Representatives has passed an historic Resolution recognizing Mahatma Gandhi’s influence on Martin Luther King Jr. and commemorating the 50th anniversary of the American civil rights leader’s visit to India in 1959.

Passed on Tuesday 10th February 2009 with a 406-0 vote (26 abstentions), the Resolution recalls how Dr. King’s study of Gandhian philosophy helped shape the Civil Rights Movement. The full text of the Resolution states:

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. changed America forever in a few short years through his teaching of nonviolence and passive resistance to combat segregation, discrimination, and racial injustice.

In 1950, during the pursuit of a Bachelor of Divinity degree at Crozer Theological Seminary in Upland, Pennsylvania, Dr. King first became aware of the success of nonviolent political action employed by India’s Mahatma Gandhi in political campaigns against racial inequality in South Africa, and later against British colonial rule in India.

Dr. King began an extensive study of Gandhi’s life and ideas, and became inspired to use Gandhi’s theory of nonviolent civil disobedience to achieve social change in America.

In 1955 and 1956, Dr. King led the Montgomery Bus Boycott to protest the arrest of Rosa Parks and the segregation of the bus system of Montgomery, Alabama, during which time Dr. King was arrested and his home bombed.

The Montgomery Bus Boycott was the first large-scale, nonviolent civil rights demonstration of contemporary times in the United States.

Following the success of nonviolent protest in the Montgomery Bus Boycott, Dr. King desired to travel to India to deepen his knowledge of Gandhi’s teachings on nonviolent principles.

Dr. King, his wife Coretta Scott King, and Lawrence Reddick, then chairman of the history department at Alabama State College, arrived in Bombay, India, on February 10, 1959 and stayed until March 10, 1959.

Dr. King was warmly welcomed by members of Indian society throughout his visit, and met with Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, land reform leader Vinoba Bhave, and other influential Indian leaders to discuss issues of poverty, economic policy, and race relations.

While in India, Dr. King spoke about race and equality at crowded universities and at public meetings.

Followers of Gandhi’s philosophy, known as satyagrahis, welcomed Dr. King and praised him for his nonviolent efforts during the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which they saw as a landmark success of principles of nonviolence outside of India.

The satyagrahis and Dr. King discussed Gandhi’s philosophy, known as satyagraha, which promotes nonviolence and civil disobedience as the most useful methods for obtaining political and social goals.

The satyagrahis reaffirmed and deepened Dr. King’s commitment to nonviolence, and revealed to him the power that nonviolent resistance holds in political and social battles.

The trip to India impacted Dr. King in a profound way, and inspired him to use nonviolence as an instrument of social change to end segregation and racial discrimination in America throughout the rest of his work during the Civil Rights Movement.

Dr. King rose to be the preeminent civil rights advocate of his time, leading the Civil Rights Movement in the United States during the 1950s and 1960s and earning world-wide recognition as an eloquent and articulate spokesperson for equality.

Dr. King became a champion of nonviolence, and in 1964, at the age of 35, he became the youngest man to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of his efforts.

Through his leadership in nonviolent protest, Dr. King was instrumental in the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Between 1957 and 1968, Dr. King traveled more than 6,000,000 miles, spoke more than 2,500 times, and wrote five books and numerous articles supporting efforts around the country to end injustice and bring about social change and desegregation through civil disobedience.

The work of Dr. King created a basis of understanding and respect, and helped communities and the United States as a whole to act peacefully, cooperatively, and courageously to restore tolerance, justice, and equality between people. Now, therefore, be it Resolved, That the House of Representatives encourages all Americans to–

(1) pause and remember the 50th Anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s visit to India

(2) commemorate Dr. King’s legacy of nonviolence, a principle that (a) Dr. King encountered during his study of India’s Mahatma Gandhi (b) further inspired him during his first trip to India; and (c) he successfully used in the struggle for civil rights and voting rights

(3) commemorate the impact that Dr. King’s trip to India and his study of the philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi had in shaping the Civil Rights Movement and creating the political climate necessary to pass legislation to expand civil rights and voting rights for all Americans; and

(4) rededicate themselves to Dr. King’s belief that “nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral question of our time” and to his goal of a free and just United States.

Painting Gandhi – by Christos Papachristou

Gandhi Foundation: Why does Gandhi interest you in particular?

Christos Papachristou: I believe that Gandhi is a unique figure of leader and “fighter”. the thing that makes him special is not only the philosophy and methodology of nonviolence that he represented — other figures have represented the same, like Martin Luther King, Tolstoy etc. — but its factual use at a national and later, global level. His faith in justice along with his persistence turned nonviolence into the key tool of a big dream, that of a free country. That was really an inspiration for me since I was a child, to see what a man can do with his will and his mind, without even hurting anyone.

GF: How can we practise Gandhi’s teachings in the present day?

CP: That is a very tough question to be answered and I believe that I am the least of all persons that can give such an answer. Cohesion and inspired action could lead to similar results, since nonviolence is a way of living, if this is the way that most people decide to live. The strategy of disobedience can be applied in countries where real democracy does not exist. Faith and persistence are necessary for achieving such a thing, virtues that a great figure like Gandhi had.

GF: Are there more young people like yourself in Greece who recognise the importance and relevance of Gandhi?

CP: Unfortunately the way the system of educating young people in Greece is not good. The students’ evaluation system is created in such way, that the ones that memorize and read exactly what the book says — without basically understanding what the book is all about, and what the meaning behind all that, is — are considered to be good students. Therefore young people have knowledge but they don’t comprehend how to use it in a positive and meaningful way. So they know who Gandhi is, but, they have no idea what was his teachings were.

GF: There are now problems of social unrest affecting all the countries of Europe due to the economic crisis, and Greece was the first country to have riots after the police killed a 15-year old boy before Christmas. Do you think that it is possible for young people in Greece to channel their dissatisfaction into a positive force for change using Gandhi’s technique of satyagraha?

CP: The youth are feeling the need to do something about all the injustice they see everyday on TV, on the streets etc. They have the energy and the strength, but they don’t know how to use it in a meaningful way. So we saw what happened with the 15 year old and we saw the reaction that followed. They have anger that should be turned into love, they have the power to change the world but they are manipulated by interests and by political parties. No one is there to teach them how to love and I believe that nobody wants them to be informed and wake up, because they know very well if they do that, they will lose the game. Like I said before, the understanding for a change exists, even for the economic crisis, but there is no interest on how we can succeed such a change. Greek people believe that are too insignificant to do anything so they just sit back and try to live their life they way it always was. Drastic changes should be made and they all start from a single mind — like Gandhi — and evolve to a whole mass that has the power to effect such changes.

GF: What are other examples of your art work?

CP: My interests are mostly social, racism, child abuse, sex abuse etc. I have attached another work of mine, which is called shadow play. It is made from old broken child toys glued together. Although when you look at it you see nothing, when you hit the light you see a shadow of a dad hitting his child. There is a big analysis behind it but I don’t want to say too much about it since it is not our subject matter.


"Shadow Play" by Christos Papachristou & Dorothy Kalogiani


"Shadow Play" by Christos Papachristou & Dorothy Kalogiani

Christos Papachristou lives in Thessaloniki, Greece. He is 28 years old. He studied illustration, design, and photography at a variety of schools including the University of Sunderland in the UK. He has worked as a photographer and currently design carpets for a living. He has his own studio were he does paintings and installations. He can be contacted at


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