Posted by: Ranjana Kumari
It’s been almost two and a half years being a part of the development sector and whenever there is talk on gender people tend to ask what women empowerment is?? Are they trying to get a definition? Well, from the little experience I have I guess there are lots of examples to answer them. Even I start looking for answers when such questions come up. There are various dimensions of women empowerment and there are lots of instances which define women empowerment. I witnessed one such witness in my work area. I have been working with a Non government organization in Maharajganj district of Uttar Pradesh since almost eight months. It is one of the most
Fighting with the police, with the block officials, with the village pradhan and with their husbands…these women succeeded in banning the sale of liquor in their village. Breaking these social and political barriers was not easy. Yes!!! Our NGO was there to support them but if these women wouldn’t have stood by our support was useless. It was their determination which made it happen.
So, the story was exposed in a women’s gathering where they were sitting to discuss issues in their self help groups. It was the cluster meeting (group of self help groups form a cluster) and we decided to also discuss and address the social issues as they are the important part of development. The women from Mohanpur village (Name changed) raised the issue of illegal sale of liquor in the panchayat bhawan. The whole history is like this:
In the Mohanpur village illegal liquor was being sold from two years until the SHG women raise voice against it and brought it to an end. Some men from outside the village had made it their permanent shop and attracted customers from the village as well as outside the village. It was not only the spot of liquor sale but also a spot where men gathered to drink and gamble. After drinking they used to abuse the village women. Because of this the women’s freedom to move in and around the village was lost. They were even beaten by the drunken men which was a matter of concern for all the village women. They even feared to say anything against them as the son of village pradhan was involved in that. He was the one to support the seller. Even the police officers had a stake in it. They used to get money from the seller and also some liquor. He visited the village on regular basis for taking his share.
The legal battle:
As soon as the matter was raised in the cluster meeting, all the women present there from other villages too joined hand to address the matter. They decided to first talk to the village pradhan and get a solution and if it doesn’t work they would go to the police.
On the very next day of the meeting there was another incident of eve teasing with a village woman. All the Mohanpur women brought their husbands at a common place and called the NGO staff for the meeting. The staff explained the husbands not to drink and abuse. After the meeting was over and the staff went back, the men started abusing and beating the women. But the women didn’t lose hope and stop. Next morning around 50 women gathered at the NGO office to seeking help to write letters to go to the police station. They got the letter written and after everyone signed on it they went to the police station.
The police story:
The officials refused to file F.I.R stating that there are group of women and F.I.R can be written on one name. The women’s determination couldn’t be shaken with that. They sat at the police station until the police chief arrived to the police staion’s rescue. It was strange to see the police chief taking pictures with the women and capturing their story in videos. Some reporters were also sitting outside the police station but they too only came in action when the police chief started taking photos. Documentation is so necessary these days you see… hahaha. The poor police chief had to take the videos himself. He gave assurance to the women that today evening he will come to their village and with this sent them back.
In the evening he arrived at the village with B.D.O at the exact location without any help. Of course he knew the way, the spot wasn’t new for him. The women asked to open the doors and expose the men and liquor kept there. The sellers and pradhan’s son had already run away. Poor fellows were afraid of the outrage.
Anyway the police was hesitant to open the doors as they knew the stock was there and their involvement would also be exposed. They sealed the panchayat bhawan giving assurance number 2 of tracing the accused soon.
In the night when police went off, the pradhan’s son and the others involved in illegal business came to the village to threaten the women who stood against them. They were threatened to be murdered if the women took any other step against them. The NGO staff were also threatened to be killed if they visited their area. But again, they disappeared in the morning…poor cowards!!!
One of the SHG women was being beaten by her husband as she took step against the men. All the SHG women gathered and beat the men with slippers who abused the women. They then gathered and went up to the district officials to get rid of the disturbance created in their village.
After days of up down to the district offices, the matter came to an end when the newspapers flashed with the news of police officers and pardhan’s son involved in the matter. Actions were taken against the men and now no male in the Mohanpur village and villages nearby has the courage to take alcohol and abuse the women.
These men got an answer to what women empowerment is and what is the power of unity…Did you???