Project Bulletin #06

The sixth edition of the Project Bulletin returns with Poster Women, which began in 2006 as a visual mapping and documentation of the women’s movement in India through the posters the movement and its campaigns had produced.

Project Bulletin helps our readers reconnect with our past and ongoing projects so that as our projects and partnerships grow, our readers have a sense of continuity about our work.


Project Background

The women’s movement was—and remains—a vibrant and complex one, which lacks an easily-accessible knowledge base. Poster Women asks how its history would look through the posters and images it has used. Answering this question was only possible with the help of women’s groups and students from various parts of the country who helped us source posters, often locating them in personal collections gathering dust in offices or organizing workshops to discuss the importance of preserving this otherwise ephemeral form of documentation.

The archive houses 1500 posters covering caste, disability, sexuality, the environment, marginalisation, and more. They are organised thematically and annotated with the date, the campaign, the designer, the story/concept behind the poster, and how it was used. Short essays by activists also provide background information demonstrating the multi-faceted histories of women’s movements. Out of the 1500 posters, we selected 200 for an exhibition which travelled to several places within and outside India. 

The exhibitions served to provide possibilities of interaction and viewership in a physical space; the web archive provides open access to these posters, which a physical space could not adequately provide, though we are aware that the internet too limits access in many ways.

We hope that the archive will serve women’s groups, and feminist activists, while also being helpful for students and researchers in women’s studies, visual culture, arts and aesthetics, and anyone who loves posters! 

Painting Our World: Women’s Messages through Art

Poster Women’s second phase was Painting Our World: Women’s Messages through Arta travelling exhibition of various forms of traditional artistic expression: paintings, embroidery, crafts, and other visual media by women artists from all over the country. The collection was curated with the help of writer and craft promoter Minhazz Majumdar. 

The exhibition travelled to Chennai, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Jaipur, Vadodara, Kolkata, Chandigarh, Shillong, and Imphal, documenting and showcasing these artistic works that rural women have used to engage with social issues like violence against women, dowry, and HIV/AIDS. 

These forms of expression are created and devised by marginalised and socially excluded (tribal and Dalit) women and address issues ranging from livelihood rights, health awareness, communalism, and violence to marriage and domestic work. 

The exhibits showcased include:

• Madhubani from Bihar

• Patachitra from West Bengal

• Contemporary Phad paintings from Rajasthan

• Appliqué embroidery from Orissa

• Jogi art from Gujarat

• Sujuni embroidery from Bihar

• Lambani embroidery from Karnataka

• Khovar paintings from Hazaribagh, Jharkhand

• Gond art from Madhya Pradesh

• Khatwa from Bihar


Project Bulletin #05

The fifth edition of the Project Bulletin is here! Project Bulletin helps our readers reconnect with our past and ongoing projects so that as our projects and partnerships grow, our readers have a sense of continuity about our work.

This edition of the Project Bulletin recaps the linked projects Body of Evidence & Stepping Stones: Engaging with Youth in South Asia, which built upon the work of the Sexual Violence and Impunity (SVI) project.  


Project(s) Background

Body of Evidence and Stepping Stones, in combination, aimed at starting dialogue with youth about sexual violence through a combination of rigorous research with creative expression like theatre, art, and poetry, with the hope that youth become active and key champions against sexual violence.

Our longtime partners Goethe-Institut / MMB supported the Body of Evidence project. Stepping Stones was funded by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and the work was based in India (Zubaan) and Nepal (Panos South Asia).

The projects acknowledge the seriousness of misinformation amongst young people about sexual conduct and sexual violence, topics that youth are encouraged not to discuss openly, and instead repress.

Therefore, to create space for these conversations in an accessible and inclusive ways, theatre, slam poetry and performance were deployed to reach out to, for example, young students and professionals focussing on medical, forensic and legal forms of sexual violence and impunity.

Some of the material generated

Participatory workshops, open studios, artwork, etc, resulted in fifty performances and documentary screenings across the projects’ locations: Karnataka, Manipur, Meghalaya, Delhi, Kathmandu, and Pokhara. These performances took place in universities, law schools, medical colleges, and other institutions to engage the projects’ target audience.

Dalit, queer, and indigenous illustrators also used the twenty-six English and forty-nine Nepali alphabets to interpret concepts linked to impunity for sexual violence, and the fight against it. This feminist typographic project is The Alphabet of Violence & Resistance and is open for public viewing as part of a permanent archive.

Creative practitioners with the Body of Evidence-Stepping Stones projects (in India and Nepal) used performing arts like theatre and slam poetry as a medium to invoke and challenge structures of impunity. Sister projects across South Asia, also funded by the IDRC, had youth and community-led research programmes, and more. You can read about these projects in greater detail here.

In January 2020, a two-day showcase of performances, poetry, documentaries and artwork questioning impunity took place in New Delhi. Fourteen groups of the projects’ artists put up seventeen performances, and a discussion with the performers followed each session.

The extended final phase of the work had to be adapted when the pandemic began, and activities shifted to the digital medium. Part of this online programming was the October 2020 launch of I Am Property, a documentary that explores polygyny and impunity in the context of Arunachal Pradesh’s customary laws.

The screening was followed by a discussion on gender and rights in indigenous communities, and customary institutions. The documentary was also the official selection at Northeast International Documentary and Film Festival 2023.


Project Bulletin #04

We are back with the fourth edition of the Project Bulletin. The Bulletin gives readers a quick recap of our projects so that as our projects and partnerships grow, our readers have a sense of continuity about our work.  

For this edition, we give you a run-through of the Sexual Violence and Impunity (SVI) project below. 

Project Background

Various South Asian countries have seen an exponential rise in sexual violence. There was a deafening silence around these incidents (such as the Partition, the liberation war of Bangladesh, or internal and cross-border conflicts and insurgent movements across the region).  Structural barriers that have perpetuated silence and impunity meant that very few speak out, with the state of impunity remaining largely unchallenged.

The SVI project recognised and sought to meet the need to document and study the history and prevalence of mass sexual violence in South Asia. By collaborating on this subject and bringing our collective and comparative expertise to bear on it, we hoped not only to learn from each other but also to show a way to begin a dialogue of peace on a complex subject. 

Some of the material created

Fifty-five research papers were commissioned covering law, medical and forensic issues, historical perspectives, militarisation, states of exception, and more.

 The project gathered a community of (mostly young) researchers and produced the results in six country-based volumes and two standalone books.

The SVI Project concluded in 2016, and the Stepping Stones and Body of Evidence built on the learnings from the project, aiming to take these learnings further and in different ways. We will talk about this more in our next Bulletin!


Project Bulletin #03

Project Bulletin gives our readers a quick recap of our projects along with their latest updates. As our projects and partnerships grow, we hope these updates give our readers a sense of continuity about our projects and ensure ongoing access to the material that continues to be generated. 

No Space For Work: Political economy and challenges to women’s labour participation, safety, and autonomy is the next project that the Bulletin will recap below. 


Project background:

No Space For Work: Political economy and challenges to women’s labour participation, safety, and autonomy (or NSFW) is a national project spearheaded by Zubaan and funded by the Ford Foundation. It aims to understand how women navigate the world of paid economic work against unpaid and devalued work and how their social identities—based on caste, class, region, ethnicity, sexuality, etc.— influence these relationships. The project continues and aligns with Zubaan’s commitment to visibilising diverse perspectives by local researchers and grassroots women’s collectives. 

The informal work sectors under focus in the project are construction, sanitation, domestic work, sex work, agricultural and allied sectors, and grassroots volunteer-based work (ASHA, Anganwadi, etc.). Smaller pilot studies are expected in hospitality, private education, media, tourism, etc.

Participatory research is the core of the project. The project aims to produce documentation and audio-visual reports through partnerships with individuals such as women leaders, community researchers, and grassroots activists affiliated with various organizations across Assam, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Manipur, and others. Their work traverses issues of disability, women’s leadership, violence against women, oral history, gender justice, and more.

The output produced under NSFW will be disseminated within the communities for their use. The project, to adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic, focused on exploring how the experiences of work for women and the forms of violence they face at work changed during the pandemic. Zubaan also provided relief to marginalized women and communities through its networks with community resource persons.

Some of the materials created:

The outputs developed through participatory research are at the heart of NSFW. The multimedia outputs are and will be based on the needs and requirements of working women in specific project locations.

 Narratives of struggle, solidarity, and resistance have emerged through the project, which will continue building on the research capacities of working women so that they can document these stories in their languages and on their own terms.

While the narratives collected are textual, efforts are underway to adapt them to different formats (like audio stories and graphic illustrations) and disseminate them amongst the communities they emerged from through mediums like community radio, WhatsApp, and Facebook groups. 

The project also supports the publication of research papers examining the intersection of various forms of violence and the world of paid and unpaid work. In addition, two feminist economics and labour activism experts have been commissioned to write background papers exploring this. 

Future plans

The creators of the materials and Zubaan share the copyright for all materials under this project (as per the Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International Creative Commons License). Through this license and sharing model, the project envisions deploying the materials for distribution and advocacy within the communities engaged and other stakeholders in the field.


Project Bulletin #02 


Project Bulletin is designed to give our readers a quick recap of our projects along with the latest updates about them. As our projects and partnerships grow, we hope these updates give our readers a sense of continuity about our projects and ensure ongoing access to the material that continues to be generated. 

The next among these is Cultures of Peace: Festival of the Northeast.


Project background:

Cultures of Peace: Festival of the Northeast was begun by Zubaan and Heinrich Böll Stiftung to focus on the Northeastern region. These efforts have created dialogue within civil societies in the seven (+ one) “sister states”, highlighting present-day concerns. While historicising the region’s relationship with “mainland” India, the Festival has foregrounded vital issues that concern the region and the rest of India to work towards peace broadly.

 Through the years, the Festival has addressed specific themes. These include Partition in the context of Northeast India and queer identities; Women’s participation in environmental activism; food cultures of the Northeast; women in music in the Northeast; and, more recently, ecology and performing arts in the Northeast. The programming also included an archive of video interviews and podcasts with women, queer, non-binary and trans people involved in activism, the arts, music, theatre, literature, as well as other material, soon to be consolidated and housed on our website as Zubaan’s Media Archive.

The project’s upcoming phase:

As the Festival moves to a new phase, it now plans to look at feminist institution-building. Movements are not limited to street-level activism but also focus on creating ongoing campaigns, collectives, and “formal” institutions. So what does this mean for movements, and how have feminist organisations dealt with questions of power, leadership, leadership transitions, and organisational growth? These are just some of the questions the Festival will seek to address collaboratively with its partners. 

Some of the materials created:

Through Her Eyes:  This musical collaboration brought together nine talented artists from Northeast India, and from different musical traditions and genres, in a rich tapestry of six different languages (Ao-Naga, Assamese, Chokri-Naga, English, Khasi, and Meiteilon). It is intended as a poetic tribute to nature and the environment featuring Tipriti Kharbangar, the Tetseo Sisters, Mangka, Moarenla Ao, Sunita Bhuyan, and Anungla Zoe Longkumer. 

Feminist Lab: The Lab was designed as a series of participative lectures on gender and ecology, focusing on stories, journeys, and achievements of feminist thinkers/collectives, activists, journalists, and others from the region. It embraces various perspectives and showcases the wealth of knowledge in the region! 

The Lab comprised eight structured interlinked workshop sessions on indigenous women’s rights and ecology, recent reforms in environmental law and their impact, outstanding conservation efforts, and varied creative documentation processes to rediscover and recover our relationship with the ecology around us. 

Video interviews: These are interviews with writers, activists, and researchers like Mamang Dai, Leki Thungon, Rituparna Neog, Ditilekha Sharma, Ayangbe Mannen, Alyen Foning, and Bano Haralu. The interviews walk us through the history of the interviewees’ work, their intellectual, political and social influences, and choices that reflect in their bodies of work. They also address the interviewees’ personal and professional/political choices, and explore how they see themselves in the context of the Northeast. The videos and other material created under the Festival will also be part of the Media Archive.