Sakhi Kendra Diaries || by Swapnil Saundarya ezine
From the Diary Neelam Chaturvedi ………
When I was 16 years of age I had many questions running in my mind so I took a step forward to find the answer for those questions related to human rights especially women’s rights, dalits, minorities and the marginalized. I started by singing revolutionary songs and giving speeches at gate meetings, rallies, sit-ins, protests and public gatherings.
On 6 December 1977, I joined the members of Swadeshi Hatya Kand to help families of dead workers by supplying them with food.
In 1978, I actively participated in the trade union movement to fight for the human rights of defense and other factory workers. I did some very interesting work with the women workers of Victoria Mill who were being harassed by their boss. I organized around 70 women, trained them to give speeches and to lead so that they could conduct the campaign on their own. The campaign achieved great success – the work pressure reduced by 4–5 hours, wages were increased by three rupees per day, and the sexually abusive boss got fired and was replaced by the leader of the campaign. I also organized women workers of the Algin No.2 Mill with low success, but the organization of workers of the Lakshmi Ratan Cotton Mill and Kanpur Textile Mill were quite successful despite our getting physically attacked by the mill owners. This way many campaigns for women workers’ rights took place.
In 1979, I started working towards providing basic amenities for women and in the process figured out that they did not have even basic rights. They were constantly subjected to rape, dowry, murder and other forms of mental and physical torture. I then formed an organization called Dahej Evam Balatkar Virodhi Manch (Forum against Rape and Dowry). Women were getting murdered or were burnt alive. I got many culprits arrested and punished and raised my voice for women’s rights by running various campaigns. I also tried to provide justice to the homeless who were constantly harassed by the police.
In 1980, a 14-year-old girl was raped by four people. I organized a public meeting and met the Senior Superintendent of Police who refused to help, but I fought for her right and helped her to get justice. The rapists were arrested. This case was quite difficult but in the end I succeeded in getting her justice.
In 1981, a conference at Christ Church College, Kanpur was organised in which people from 22 districts had participated and discussed about women rights. I addressed and presented a paper in national level workshop and conferences and took active participation in student movement of Kanpur.
Radha Jain got burnt for dowry, I protested against it with 42 lawyers and got justice (1979–81).
1982: State level conference was organized and we formed sakhi kendra where we have KANPUR’S FIRST shelter home, workshops, awareness training programme centre and library. For monetary benefits we have started lunch box services to mill workers .
*Vandana Awasthi got shot dead by her husband then we organized campaign against that, they were very reputed person so 200 people helped me out in this movement and it took 15 days to the beginning of justice to arrest them.
Quick facts of my life ……………
1982–83: 80 cases related to women human rights attempted (55 successful).
1983: Police brutality on people, hunger strike for 8 days in Kanpur and 2 days in Agra.
*Held public courts against the violence on women.
1984: Hindu–sikh riots, work for rehabilitation, injured sikhs got justice and we also participated in this campaign actively.
*A historic campaign in Kanpur, Krishan Pratap Singh of Pali village, raped a lot of women in the most brutal way possible, killed a lot of people, brutally beat up people, forcefully took farms. I started a Campaign against him, with 101 lawyers within 6 years. (during this period lot of murders happened, many attacks on me).This campaign was not only for that particular person but also the whole mentality of the people who think its their right to do such crime and even people thought they are surviving on the mercy of that family, that’s why this was a long fight, but in the end the campaign was successful.
1985: MKJ leather factory, administration beat up 46 women in such a way that their clothes got ripped, protest against it and got justice through SSP.
1984–86 :120 cases successful
1986: Bilkish Bano got killed by her in-laws, public meeting held in Bakengunj, body got buried out and re-checked, justice (I got attacked by criminals).
1987: Sadhu in Bithoor tortured his wife and after her death he made money of her body, saying that she gets alive at night. He got arrested. I fought till the success which took place after 35 days of sit on in Bithoor, Kanpur.
*Sati Pratha, where women’s were forced to burnt with their husband’s deadbody and called holy. And that time same event held called Devrala sati kand and I had run a campaign against it.
*We ran a movement against alcohol.
1988: I took active participation in organizing the Rashtriya Naari Mukti Sangharsh conference held in Patna.
*Three sisters committed suicide because of being a girl, a daughter being neglected. So we organized street plays and raised a conference against a patriarchal values in family, we have started discussion on domestic violence.
1889–90: active participation in Hindu–Muslim riots and we had run a campaign for secularism, newly married girl bride was beaten up and was thrown in the street in a nude condition. Criminals were rich, I fought against them and it was difficult but I gained success after 6 days.
1991–92: we fought against a charitable hospital which had turned into business hospital, I got success.
6 December: Babri Masjid was broken up big campaign against communalism all over U.P. this year our organization became broad. We made documentary film named Pagalpan ke Khilaaf (against madness).
1991: There were a case of Forceful prostitution of wife for money, I fought against it and caught 6 major people of town. I raised voice for violence against women, women’s legal and political rights by various campaigns in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand. During this we made 27 women’s stand in the election of Nagar Nigam as a corporater among which 15 were runner.
From 1994–95: Fourth world women conference held in Beijing (China), for its preparation I co-ordinated with member of the different organizations and participated with more than 200 women in conference.
*joined SAF factory labour campaign.
*campaign against the new economic policy in U.P.
2001: Women was group raped in a village, and in Unnawo, Raamrati was raped and killed brutally and his husband was beaten up, Amnesty International helped us in this matter and all 7 culprits got arrested and file a case against him also.
2002: a girl got brutally murdered because of dowry in Jhansi, we protested against it till the culprits got arrested.
2003: A guy had raped and killed three children and we protested, but police denied, when he got caught red handed in fourth then police took action.
2003: alcohol license were sold for very cheap (Rs 100)(even for kids) , we did a campaign against Mayawati’s party, and they had to take it back.
2003: brother burnt his sister for money, we took her out in burning condition but couldn’t save her, her brother ran away, we got him arrested.
2004: In Bombay world social forum, we presented street plays and talk shows based on human rights (protest and awareness rallies are always held time to time by all creative means).
2005: a high tension wire did a lot of damage in a village, we did a meeting with the DM, and helped them to get compensation.
2005: campaign against women eve teasing and rape in trains and public transports.
2005–10: several campaigns run by Sakhi Kendra for establishing good governance in target slums, for gender equality, against female foeticide, for proper implementation of PWDV Act, PCPNDT Act, effective implementation of State Women Policy in U.P. and M.P. as well as its formulation in Jharkhand, Uttaranchal and Chhattisgarh.
2010- 2018 : Currently , running a mega campaign for gender justice and women’s rights namely ‘MAHABHIYAAN’.
About Sakhi Kendra :
Sakhi Kendra's vision for equality, justice and non-violence has been prevailing since last 37 years to build a healthy Society free from all kinds of discriminations, violence and gender based equality. Out of 36000 challenging cases we were able to bring 18000 to justice giving birth to 40000 beneficiaries’ who are still resolving problems for women in distress in their region and spreading awareness amongst multiple people. Thousands of street plays, puppet/Muppet shows and livelihood trainings were done to spread our message as much as possible. Around 650 genders, capacity building training were done resulting in implementation of policy and CEDAW Consultancy. Many other sessions with the government were held for formulation of acts related to women and their, effective implementation. Due to our several meetings and dialogues with the government an organized set of structures was formed for strengthening the rights of Domestic Women Workers. Our immense efforts at district level as ‘ Sakhi Gharelu Kamgar Sangh’ and Rashtriya Dalit Mahila Shakti we were able to organize 6000 women. We have done 460 Public court related women’s violence. And initiated 135 women candidates in Panchayat and Municipal body elections in various areas of Kanpur. In association with organization S.B.I has sponsored the education grant more than 500 poor, physically handicapped or orphan girls for their basic to Graduation level education.
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