Divya S Iyer, District Collector of Kerala’s Pathanamthitta bringing her son to the valedictory ceremony of a private film festival and delivering a speech with the child in her arms triggered debate among the netizens on Friday. While many questioned if it was proper for an IAS officer to bring her child to a public event, others, who supported her, highlighted the multiple roles played by women.
The sixth International Film Festival of Adoor was held in October, and one of the organisers, Deputy Speaker of the state Assembly Chittayam Gopakumar, published a video of the Collector and her son attending the festival’s finale on his Facebook page on October 30. He eventually removed the video from his Facebook account. Iyer could be seen in the video sitting with her child on the dais, cuddling him, and later affectionately talking to him as she stood to give her speech.
Several netizens who support the collector pointed to the example of New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern who had created headlines worldwide by bringing her three-year-old daughter to the United Nations General Assembly in 2018.
Iyer’s husband K S Sabarinadhan, former legislator and Youth Congress state vice-president took to Facebook in strong defence of his wife and said she took the boy along with her as it was a holiday and the function was not an official event. He added that Iyer is a committer officer who fully dedicated her week days for official purposes but on Sundays, she tries to spend her time with their son. In his post, she further asserted that some functions could not be avoided and in such situations, Iyer would inform the organisers in advance that she would attend the event along with their son.
Sabarinadhan further said, “Working mothers do not need anyone’s sympathy. But, society should give them a positive space to work. Half of the criticism would be over if we learn how many difficulties are being overcome by women, who are playing multiple roles as wife, mother and so on, besides handling professional duties.” He added that this debate is good in a way as many working mothers face such situations.