President of Suffolk Chapter of NOW Advocates for Women’s Rights Through Poetry

Apr 7, 2023
Dr. Venkateswaran stands before a pulpit and addresses a crowd of student and faculty members.

Dr. Pramila Venkateswaran has dedicated her life to the perseverance and power of social activism, emphasizing the importance of publicly organizing for the sake of women’s rights. On April 4, she visited Westfield State as a guest of the Ethnic and Gender Studies Department to celebrate International Women’s Month.

Venkateswaran is the President of the Suffolk Chapter of the National Organization of Women (NOW) and also serves as the Poet Laureate of Long Island. She has also published poetry in a variety of literary journals in addition to authoring several books of poems, including: Thirtha (Yuganta Press, 2002) and Thirteen Days to Let Go (Aldrich Press, 2015), which are commentaries on both her life experiences as well as her personal observations surrounding women’s and feminist culture.

At the gathering, Venkateswaran highlighted recent social events which impact the integrity and safety to women, namely, the overturning of Roe v. Wade. 

“We don’t realize how fragile our rights are,” she said to the crowd of students and faculty. “We do not have the support in our society that allows women to thrive,” she continued. 

Venkateswaran also chronicled her academic and professional ventures working with NOW, the largest organization of feminist grassroots in the United States. Founded in 1966, NOW’s  purpose is to uplift women as well as to inspire and congregate as a force of feminist activism. NOW also integrates the social concept of intersectionality within their diverse array of activists in order to practice and acknowledge people’s singular experiences.

Later in the lecture, Venkateswaran shared several poems she’s published which elaborate on her personal reactions to events surrounding the subjugation or discrimination of women’s rights throughout the world. The audience responded favorably to poetic lines such as, “Imagine the woman who couldn’t imagine at all,” and, “Courage, sisters.” 

“Poetry is activism,” Venkateswaran said. “Poetry may be able to capture what sociology textbooks cannot. Writing is the way that I think.”

Pausing to address the crowd, Venkateswaran concluded,  “Activism starts with you.”