Many ladies from Haryana’s Jind traveled to Kandela town in the region on-farm haulers, vans, and bullock trucks to go to the principal ‘Mahila Maha-Panchayat’ Wednesday.
This is the main all-ladies maha-panchayat coordinated since the time the ranchers’ fights began on Delhi borders in late November.
Farmers have been mobilizing to push their demand for a rollback of the farm laws by organizing maha panchayat in the villages across Haryana and Uttar Pradesh after the 26th January Violence in Delhi.
The Beginning Of It All
Women across generations — from 16 to 60-year-olds, attended the maha-panchayat, where they raised slogans against the Modi government, demanding that the “black laws” be repealed.
‘Kala kanoon wapas lo’, ‘Nari shakti zindabad’ rent the air as women, many of them wearing ghoonghat (headcover), went to the stage to raise their demands and speak their mind.
“Be aware, educate yourself, educate your children,” said the Punjabi actress, Sonia Mann from the stage, who came from Tikri to attend the maha-panchayat. She was at the forefront of the Tikri protests.
What Was Happening That It Led to This?
Farmer leader Sudesh Goyat, who has been camping at Tikri for the last three months, said she wanted women to help each other out.
“We should put an end to the discrimination that happens in Haryana. We should help each other, rather than putting each other down,” she said on-stage. The women said it’s “empowering” to speak from the stage.
“Beti, you won’t understand, the very act of holding that mic and telling our story, putting forth what you want is empowering enough,” said a woman farmer, who didn’t want to be named.
Was It A Much-Needed Change?
The first time women from Haryana were allowed to participate in a khap panchayat was in 2010. Earlier women weren’t even allowed anywhere near the stage of a khap. Now they’re running the show. Even now you find some women, who just listen from outside, being apprehensive about entering a khap.
For women farmers hailing from a state infamous for its gender-based orthodoxy and high female foeticide rates, the first ‘Mahila maha panchayat carried immense significance as it brought an opportunity for women to demand a change in their status.
“The labor of women farmers goes unrecognized, often characterized as household work. They’re paid much less than men too. Where a man earns Rs 500, a woman earns Rs 300 for the same job,” said Goyat.
“We also want 50 percent reservation for women, not just in panchayats, but even in the Parliament. That’s our demand,” she added.
The Parliament’s Representation
It is unprecedented, women farmers said that, to see women from the state mobilize in such large numbers and step out of their homes, much less to participate in politics and be vocal about issues that they face.
From not being allowed anywhere near khaps to now organizing the maha-panchayat, it’s a big leap for the women in the state.
“See, orthodox people remain orthodox and frown at women coming out like this. But the younger generation has a more liberal worldview, which is supporting this much-needed change in society,” said, Jind district’s Mahila Pradhan, Sikkim Nainshuka.
Nainshuka also added that the farmer’s protest has helped women come out of their homes and participate in the movement.
Many women were limited to Chula–chokha (kitchen). They first stepped out of their houses, then found a resolution, and then started voicing their demands.
Women now are acutely aware of their rights and are actively fighting for them. The empowerment we had thought would happen in a decade seems to be happening within 10 days now.
Image Credit: Google Images
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