Social Mobilization & Institutional development in the community

At the local party levels, despite having so many women contesting Panchayat elections, important positions are held mainly by men. All political parties show their allegiance to women’s participation by creation of a separate women’s morcha or wing. Women still predominate only in positions and activities that support male party leadership at the grassroots level. Without access to the institutional knowledge, with very limited resources, few role models and mentors and sometimes even limited family and community support, women’s participation in political parties has remained well below that of men. While the women morchas play a significant role in rural politics through outreach and mobilizing other women and coordinating the activities of women members of the party, their contribution to policy development (particularly around gender based violence), promoting women’s interest in policy platforms and as an advisory to party leadership on gender issues remain unexplored. Moreover, a lack of awareness among women on constitutional, legal rights & entitlements prevent them from questioning authority and institutions refusing to ensure protection of their rights. Embroiled in gender trappings, women are unable to connect with their own strength and explore ways of self empowerment.

One of the spotlight of this year’s work was the formation and strengthening community based women’s committees known as the NARI JAGARAN COMMITTEES

300 women to set up 9 Anti Gender Based Violence Vigilance Committees to address violence like domestic violence, early marriage, sexual harassment from a rights based perspective and create awareness

Highlights of the activities of Nari Jagaran Committees

  • Women are seldom included in the MGNREGS scheme. Women have gone to the GP asking for work under the scheme but of no avail. About 1500-2000 women under the leadership of the NJC gheraoed the Gram Panchayat and the BDO office and expressed their concern. With so many women being present in the Block office, the District Magistrate was informed and he was forced to come and meet the women. The women expressed their problem and later the DM directed the BDO and the GP office to give work to women under MGNREGS. The Pradhan of the GP gave a letter informing that women will be included in the scheme.
  • Another big achievement of the NJC was their movement to close down the illegal liquor shops that has been mushrooming near the main roads. Women were harassed and taunted when they walked passed the shop and had to bear the brunt if physical and mental abuse by their husband at home using addiction as an excuse. The NJC had mobilized 500-600 women on 3 occasions and had taken out a rally protesting against these shops. But these efforts were of no avail. In June 2017, 2500 women created a road block in Ranchi road. Women sang, danced and chanted slogans but refused to budge. Officers came down from the Block, the Zilla Parishad and the Police Station. They sealed the shop and promised the women that they will not allow the shop to continue its business.
  • The BLRO office was not regularly attended by the officer and women going there for work were ignored and treated with disrespect. The NJC of the 2 GPs got together and mobilized nearly 1000 women who went and protested against the officer. Following this incident, women and others are dealt with promptly.
  • The Nari Jagaran Committees have been instrumental in organising and mobilizing women to protest against violence on women and observe significant days like the Women’s Day, Campaign against Violence on Women etc.
  • The Nari Jagaran Committees have taken the initiative and held 46 awareness programmes around gender and violence against women in their communities and have reached out to 7043 people.
  • Community women have also mobilized themselves into 2 theatre groups, in Purulia and Birbhum These Theatre Groups have been integrated into the Nari Jagaran Co mittee. The Purulia theatre group has 20 members and have been performing on women’s rights regularly. They were invited by the Zilla Parishad to perform in the Sabala Mela, Purulia to perform.
  • The Committees have intervened in and dealt with 67 cases of violence ranging from domestic violence, early marriage, sexual abuse etc.
  • More than 77 meetings of the NJC have taken place in the last year. 2 Nari Jagaran Committees have opened their own accounts and have collected an average fund of Rs. 5000.

Adult Literacy Centres

With the support of Equidiversity Foundation, a few community women have taken up the initiative to start Adult Female Literacy centres in 2 Gram Panchayats of Jhaldah II block- Tatuara, Nowahatu Gram Panchayats. 2 community women work tirelessly to keep the 4 Adult Literacy Centres functional. 120 women including 2 women elected representatives come and study in these centres regularly. The Adult Literacy Centres not only provide women literacy skills including reading and writing, but also a working knowledge of arithmetic. These centres are also forums for discussion of women’s rights, gender issues and government entitlements so that women are able to access them and fight for their rights. The centres also help mobilise these women as members of the Nari Jagaran Committees to fight gender based violence and discrimination. Women from these centres also support the Theatre Group to continue its task of spreading awareness on gender issues like early marriage, domestic violence, school dropout etc.

2 women from the Literacy Centres found the strength and confidence to join a women’s theatre group spreading awareness on women’s rights and gender based violence in the villages. The theatre group is one of its kind in Purulia where women are not seen so actively playing a part in activities like street play. The theatre group have performed in programmes organized by the local police station and government fairs.

More than 200 classes have taken place in these 4 ALCs. There are 120 women in the centres. All members are members of the Nari Jagaran Committees.

  • An examination was conducted with 60 women in ALCs in Tatuara where 45 women passed that level. The women have been trained on how to maintain accounts and records in their self help group books and many are able to do that.
  • Livelihood planning from the women of the ALCs have been submitted in the gram sansad sabha for consideration.
  • Many women have registered for different entitlements like SASPFAU from the government following awareness in the ALCs. All women were encouraged to open individual bank accounts.