On International Women’s Day 8th March 2011, ARD held
a rally and gathering. This is the first time in this area (known as
Guraru Block) where we work, that anything like this has ever happened.
The Press were on hand to record the event. Below is an abbreviated
version of the report from the day, written by Nairita, ARD Program
Approximately 1253 women
from 85 different villages arrived at the rally, brought by the Community
Organisers or Animators employed by ARD. There were different slogans
written on placards like “Stop child marriage” and “Taking
and giving of dowry is illegal”.
The women all lined up at 10 am and headed together towards the government
office at Guraru 1km away. They stayed there for some minutes and then
returned to the Sarvodaya Vidya Mandir school compound.
A program at the school followed with Indu Sahai, a woman lawyer fighting
for the causes of women as the chief guest. Government Officers and
local leaders of the villages also attended.
The leaders from different SHGs came to the dias. A few SHG members
talked of their successes as members of an SHG. SHG members sang a song
related to the importance of the education of children.
Next, the Program Manager of ARD, Nairita Roychowdhury, talked of the
importance of International Women’s Day, a campaign started by
the suffragettes agitating for women’s right to vote 100 years
ago. It honours their work, thus celebrating women’s success and
focuses on injustices against women which need to be addressed. A candle
was lit to commemorate this special day.
Indu Sahai, a woman lawyer, spoke now of the laws that in India are
in favour of women. She enlightened us through her speech, in which
she highlighted some special acts and sections of the Indian Penal Code
and their significance for Indian women. The special acts are: Domestic
Violence Act, 498 A, Hindu Maintenance Act, Prohibition of Dowry and
Child Marriage Act. She explained in brief the provisions under each
act and in what ways they are beneficial for woman. Most importantly
she stressed that there are laws in the country, but it should be the
last resort of a person to seek the help of the legal system. As the
legal system is full of loopholes and it takes an extended period of
time to get the issues solved and get justice, her advice is to first
try to solve the issue within the home such that the problem does not
persist. Be it the case of dowry or the case of child marriage, in the
first instance one should try to solve these issues within the family.
After her speech, 5-6 women presented their case studies, how their
lives have changed since they have joined ARD. These women are members
of different Self Help Groups like Saraswati, Sita, Sashi Prabha, Chanchala,
Prakash, Prarishram SHGs. Different SHG members narrated their case
studies and the way they save money in their group. Also they told how
their condition was before and the impact that the SHGs have had on
their lives. The Secretary and the President of the groups also narrated
the way in which the groups practice savings and the various small entrepreneurial
initiatives that are taken up by them. It was inspiring to learn how
these women are saving and earning by engaging in various income generation
activities like bangle making, small stationary shops and dairy initiatives.
The Block Development Officer, Arun Kumar Chobey now took the stage.
He thanked the women for coming and told in brief about various development
schemes that are in place in the Block. The Circle Officer then narrated
his experience of women’s empowerment and appreciated the crucial
role of ARD in the process. He spoke about the importance of land entitlement
rights in the name of women.
Observations from Nairita
The programme was very participatory with about 1253 women participating
in the programme. The rally was immensely successful as a lot of people
came to know about the work of ARD through the rally. Also the rally
had a positive impact on not only the Block Development Officer, but
on all of the officials. The women also enjoyed the rally very much.
The slogans that were used in the rally like “Stop child marriage”,
“Taking and giving of dowry is illegal” are issues that
India has been long struggling to overcome. When such issues are aired
by the women for the women’s cause, it is truly an eye-opening
experience. However, the crux of the matter is this: the women should
not only preach the slogans, but they should also act practically in
their lives in that manner. Especially in the state of Bihar where dowry
and child marriages are still common practice, such steps are an ardent
The session on legal empowerment was also very beneficial for the women
because many women are not aware of these laws. As a result, the majority
of rural women are not in a position to effectively implement them.
There are provisions for prevention of physical, social and mental exploitation
of women, but despite this, there are ample cases where women bear exploitation
Achievements of the Day:
1. Instilled a sense of oneness and confidence among all the women of
2. Provided a platform for the rural women to share their life experiences
and thus encourage other women to join the process.
3. Allowed information dissemination about various legal issues related
to women and awareness relating to schemes and programs at the Block
4. Provided a common platform where ARD and its work with the lives
of these rural women could be appreciated and acknowledged and which
will foster better liasons and leveraging with different government
about women whose lives have been changed by ARD programmes
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