Academy of Root Development Australia Inc  

Women's Empowerment in Indian Villages
WEIV


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International Womens Day

 

International Womens Day

 

International Womens Day

 


Social Empowerment Initiatives:
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 Manager.

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 need.

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 in silence.

Achievements of the Day:
1. Instilled a sense of oneness and confidence among all the women of the SHGs.
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 level.
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 officials.



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Academy of Root Development is a not-for-profit charitable organisation that aims to bring equity and opportunity to rural villages in Bihar, India