International Women’s Day Celebration : BJSA (India)

BJSA, UP (India) organized an event on 10th March, 2017, celebrating International Women’s Day. It was also an occasion to observe Mata Savitri Bai Phule Death Anniversary. Mata Savitri Bai was the  first lady teacher in India, and she is always

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remembered for her relentless struggle for girls education. Chief speaker at this programme was Professor Dr.Indu Chaudhari BHU Varanasi and Chief Guest was Dr.Munni Bharti JNU Delhi. Over 2000 women and 250 men attended . Issues covered were education, domestic violence  and land rights for women.

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(Reported by: Vijendra Kumar, Member, Bhartiya Jan Sewa Ashram, Jaunpur UP INDIA)

Women’s Working Group Meet at Rome

A Women’s Working Group has been initiated by ILC since July 2016. The working group aims at strengthening and consolidating global activities of ILC members towards Women’s Land Rights and Gender Justice. After three Skype calls with the members, it was time for a face to face interaction of the members of the Women’s Working Group.

Between 4 April -6 April  2017 such an opportunity was offered to the members of the Working Group to come together for a meeting. The objective of the meet was:

  • Validate the ToRs for the working group and discuss how to engage most effectively:

– as a group

– with the wider ILC network

– with other partners

  • Define the role of the WG in linking commitment-based initiatives (CBIs)
  • Identify opportunities and mechanisms for peer-to-peer learning
  • Build cross-regional linkages
  • Contribute to the gender audit

9 representative members from ILC’s global partners – representing different regions and organisation were present at the meet. Sabine Pallas and Elisabetta Cangelosi were the main co-ordinators on behalf of ILC Secretariat. Also present were the members of the consultant team commissioned for Gender Audit. The primary issues discussed during this meet included:

– Understanding the objective and functioning of Women’s Working Group

– Joint vision of ILC towards ensuring Women’s Land rights and Gender Justice.

– Initiatives taken under ILC Commitment -4:Women’s Land Rights

– Using the process of Knowledge Exchange and Capacity Building to empower actions promoting Women’s Land Rights.

– Understanding the Women’s Land Rights toolkit and methods of using the toolkit as learning initiative.

– Discussing Land Rights Indicators and ILC’s Dashboard project.

Another key aspect of the meet was participation in the Gender Audit process of ILC.

The highlight of the meet was understanding the issue of women’s land rights from different perspectives from around the world. In each region, in fact, in each local area – the social systems related to women’s land rights is different. The responses and solutions are different accordingly. This is challenging as well as enriching in the way that it evokes a varied ways by which local groups, CBOs/CSOs, land rights workers respond to the situation.

However what was important was the learning that the participants got from each other. The ideas that emerged towards inter-regional learning, sharing and exchange of knowledge would go a long way in formulating long term solutions towards ensuring women’s land rights from the global point of view.

It was equally important to understand the role of Women’s Working Group towards Commitment Based Initiatives –Women’s Land Rights activities.

What was excellent of the meet was to understand the seriousness with which ILC is working as a team – Secretariat, RCUs and member organisations- in upholding the need to promote Women’s Land Rights as a key issue of the Land Rights Movement using key elements of Connect, Mobilise and Influence.. It was also an excellent scope to endorse the fact that gender balance and gender justice is pertinent to the Land Rights Movement.

Participation in the Gender Audit process also gave the participating members an opportunity to look back at the gender balance within the system and culture of their respective organisations. The interactive sessions gave a scope to understand the extent to which ILC as a coalition is gender-balanced and gender-just.

And not just the formal sessions, the informal interactions among the participants too was a wonderful to scope to connect with members from different parts of the world , who are serious about ensuring gender justice at every level.

Women from across the world say in unison, Jai Jagat!

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Jai Jagat is a campaign launched by the organization Ekta Parishad, an organization based in India, to culminate on the year 2020. The campaign highlights the role of minority communities across the world in taking control over land and natural resources to fight poverty.

Ekta Parishad explains “Jai Jagat actually means VICTORY OF THE WORLD. That is very close to the concept of  Sarvodaya (‘well being of all’) that was given by Mahatma Gandhi. The underlying principle is that, if there is a victory then it should be the victory of our common humanity not the victory of one nation over another. The victory should also be based on the victory of living commodiously together, and of people coexisting with nature. If the victory is for everyone and for everything, then this is the best. A modern world needs to imbibe these new values, the values of Jai Jagat and Gandhi’s notion of Sarvodaya.”

The essence of this campaign was visible in the five-day International Conference on Women’s Public Leadership in the Pursuit of Peace held on March 23 to 27, 2017 at the Eugenio Lopez Center in Antipolo, Rizal.The conference was organized by Ekta Parishad and the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process.

The conference addressed the issues of Women Public Leadership in the Pursuit of Peace by Irene Santiago, GRP chair of the implementing panel of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission; Non-violent Conflict Resolution in the Gandhian Tradition by Jill Carr-Harris (USA). There were also Case studies on non-violent remedies for ethnic, political and communal violence which had representatives from Thailand, Cambodia and India sharing insights, and; Case studies on non-violent action regarding land grabbing, resource extraction and agricultural industrialization with women from Cambodia, Kyrgyztan and India leading the discussions.

Speaking on women’s involvement in public spaces, Santiago said that “only social movements can bring about social change” and the women who were effective in peace had all come from movements. She also felt that “if by tradition, women and girls are tasked to set the family dining table, then another table has been put up to which can be attributed some of the successful stages of the talks, the peace table is set-up and put into strategic position by the women themselves.”

The highlight of the second day was the role of women in preventing violence and their contribution as peace makers.

Mosarrat Quadeem of Bangladesh, and Amina Rasul from Phillipines explained the situation of violent extremism in their respective situations and how local women were tackling it.

Former Gabriela partylist Representative Luz C. Ilagan also gave the long history of struggle of women and their important role in peacebuilding.

Mags Maglana, who facilitated the conference, it was a moment where “all incredible women (are) together in this incredible space at this incredible time.”

The conference was attended by 11 international participants from Cambodia, Thailand, Kyrgyztan, India, Switzerland and USA and 15 Muslim and indigenous peoples representative from the Philippines.

(News Source: http://mindanaotimes.net/ women-say-jai-jagat/ Base Article by: Amalia Cabusao Photos Courtesy:  Patmei B. Ruivivar)

[If you wish to get more news on the campaign and regular updates on the same, send a mail to the Ekta Parishad team : news@jaijagat2020.org]

Consultation Meet on National Indigenous Women’s Conference,India

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A “Consultation meeting for preparation of 2nd National Indigenous Women’s Conference”  was organised by Adivasi Women Network from 25th to 27th  April 2017 at Scepter  ,Kolkata, India . It was a preparatory meet of National Indigenous Women’s Conference. It was a programme supported by Samajik Seva Sadan Odisha  and AIPP ,Thailand . It was attended by 20 indigenous women from different parts of India.

They all shared their challenges as a women in their respective local areas. As they shared their individual tales, one thing that stood out was that though apparently there is progress in terms of education, work opportunities, when it comes to rights- especially that which relates to land and property rights, the traditional mind-set comes to play. Another aspect which was common to all the regions was that, any adverse changes in the socio-economic situation has direct impact on women.

Kirti Nileshwartha from Mumbai ,Maharashtra proclaimed that equality of men and women was inherent in their community. But the increasing  influence of non tribal  communities around have brought changes in their culture too . There was a time when women had equal rights in the family and that meant equal ownership too. But now the trend has changed. Every family wants a son so a to be the inheritor of the property. In fact social vices like dowry system has come into existence which was not there earlier.

Due to increasing caste division  has led to a feeling of insecurity- about life as well as livelihood. And this has a direct effect on the lives of women.

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But she was hopeful about the future of women’s rights issues. According to her, the Adivasi Mantralay (the Ministry of Tribal Afairs) in Mahrashtra are now taking active initiatives to enrol woman’s name on land patta (land document). Which means more and more indigenous women would be ensured of their right over their land.

Sonal Rathwa from North Gujrat shared a very interesting aspect. She said that there are about 29 different types of indigenous people in and around Gujarat. Some of them are now facing a huge threat of landlessness due to land encroachments. Thus the youth are compelled to go to other states as to work as labourers. On the other hand, there is the culture of ‘Bride Money’ among some communities. This means that the groom’s side has to pay a huge price to the bride’s family. This has resulted in a strange situation. Since the economic condition of the grooms are often very poor, once married, the groom often push the young brides towards flesh trade. They are often compelled to go into small time prostitutions to bring home money. This has also led to  sharp increase HIV patients in region. This has now resulted into a misconception that education for girls is a curse  because more educated the girl is, the higher the bride price they take  and thereafter worse becomes the condition of the newly-wed girl. These days domestic violence is also a regular feature due to drinking and less job opportunities .

Similarly the represntative from Odisha rued the fact that the indigenous communities were required to renew their caste certificates every six months – which is often a delayed process. This leads to missing out on several government aided privileges and support. This has a big negative impact on women.

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Overall the entire consultation was very important as it gave myriad of problems that indigenous women face all across the nation. Most of it is due to regressive social systems and traditional mind-sets. Like many women participants themselves were hesitant to believe that lack of rights for women over land or property was the violation of a basic human right. Women’s rights are often measured only in parameters like education or job opportunites and not rights as a whole. The entire programme was very well planned and gave a wonderful scope to exchange ideas.

(Reported by : Smita Kongari Mukherji – Convenor-Women’s Working Group- Swadhina)

(Photo Courtesy: AWN)

Workshop on Women’s Land Rights, Kolkata, India

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A Workshop on Women’s Land Rights was organised at Kolkata, India from 26-28 May 2017. The workshop was organised for 30 Grass-root level workers from field level. The workshop focussed on three objectives:

1) Understanding the Grass-root challenges related to Women’s Land Rights

2) Exchanging knowledge on different country-based initiatives taken on Women’s Land Rights

3) Building initiatives for grass-root level awareness building on the issue.

 

Representatives from four states of India attended the meet. The meet involved sharing of ideas, developing work-plan in small groups and exchanging ideas amongst groups.

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Here are what the participants shared on women’s land rights – positive, negative and mixed feelings highlighted the thoughts:

Ramhabala Srivastava, Motihari,Bihar“ Having worked in my area for song I realise that the awareness about women related laws is very limited. In such circumstances it becomes important that women at the basic level are made aware of such laws. And men should be a part of the process too”.

Rina Acharjee, Purulia, West Bengal: “ In my area women go out to work in the fields in the early morning hours because they grow vegetables mostly. And the vegetables need to be picked in the early hours of the day. The middle-men then come and procure the vegetables handing over the money to the women. But at that very moment the men-folk come and snatch away their money. This is my land, none of your business, they claim. And year after year, this cycle continues.”

Jashoda Mardi, Benasole, Jharkhand: “ I belong to an indigenous family. My mother-in-law has a huge property at her parents place. She has only one brother. But during a moment of crisis when she had gone and requested her brother to hand over a small portion of the property, she was refused. They said it was not right to ask for property as she was the girl of the house. She needed the land badly but she couldn’t pressurise because in our area it is very common to brand a woman who is going against the social norm as a witch. And she chose to kept quiet, rather than be branded as one”.

Nirmala Sahu, Betnoti, Odisha: “ I am a witness to the fact that women make best utilisation of the resources around themselves. Ours being a forest areas, forest is a vital resource for us. The Right to Forest Act empowers the local indigenous women to collect the forest resources without destroying the primary resource. So, our local women’s group collects Saal leaves to make Leaf Plate and Leaf Bowls which are bought by the businessmen from the city. We have made successful SHG groups and bought Leaf Plate and Bowl pressing machines. The women also keep money in bank. This has served a huge lesson to the society around”.

(Reported by: Srichandra For report details contact:ilc.womenportal@gmail.com/swadhina_org@yahoo.com)

Grass Root Meets on Women’s Land Rights, India

A series of grass-root level meets were organised to highlight the need to mobilise women to understand and claim land rights. Another objective of the meets was to share the different land-based initiatives taking place in other countries. These meets were organised as a part of CBI-4 initiative of International Land Coalition: Women’s Land Rights and Gender Justice. Following is a glimpse of the activities taking place in different states of India:

1)  Odisha

In the state of Odisha two Grass-root Meets have been organised in the villages of Bhrudabani and Mahulia – under the Mayurbhanj district.

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In Bhurudabani, the programme was organised on 10th of June 2017 from 2:15 pm to 6:30 pm. The day began with a rally of about 35 participants. Comprising of women and supported by local men, the rally highlighted the need to have Land Rights for Women-Now! Hand-made by the women themselves, the placards spoke what the women had never dared to speak earlier. As the women went through the village streets, more and more women, as well as men joined them. The meet then began at Bhurudabani Primary School with a total number of 57 participants. Mr. Sawna Murmu, a staff of the Revenue Inspector’s Office was present at the meet. Speaking on the issue he mentioned that it is a very common experience for him  to come across women who have been forcefully evicted out of her home and land because of her husband’s remarriage. He felt that the need to legally endorse marriages to stop the trend of remarriages – even in traditional set-up, is vital for women. Having heard about the Joint Land Ownership initiative of Nepal, he too felt that the need for joint ownership was vital for women to prevent social vices and land related complications. The women heartily took part in interactive discussion on the issue.

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In Mahuliya, the programme took place in the local Adivasi Community Centre . The programme here began with a procession too. As the women marched through the villages, shedding their inhibitions, it seemed a bold first step towards asking for something that was their own – their land, their property! A total of 47 participants attended the meet. Mr. Binod Murmu, Panchayat Samity Member, represented the local government. Mr. Sarat Tudu from local Land Revenue Office was present at the meet. Significantly, the local indigenous leader – the tribal head-man of the village Mr. Dakhin Murmu, was also present at the meet. The entire meet was conducted by social worker Ms.Nirmala Sahu. Mr.Binod Murmu said that he had been a witness to many land-related violence – mostly due to hurried sale of land by men to procure money for drinking or gambling. He felt that if women are equal owners of land, it would not be easy for men to sell the family land easily. This would control the sale of land to a large extent and the land related violence would reduce. Moreover, given in the hands of women, the productivity from land would also increase. It was interesting to note that breaking the traditionally patriarchal barrier, the Village Tribal Leader was vocal in favour of women. He said, “ Tribal women put in the maximum effort t when it comes to agriculture. It is they who do the maximum hard-work, But when the same land is sold or purchased no one takes the consent of a woman. Is this justice?”.

The village women participated whole-heartedly in the group discussions that followed, especially being vocal about their contribution towards agriculture.

2) Bihar

In the state of Bihar three grass-root meets have taken place so far. The first meet took place on 25th of June 2017 at Patrakar Bhavan, Motihari in Belbanwa district of Bihar. Around 35 participants took part in the meet. On behalf of the local government, Panchayat Ward representative Ms. Reeta Devi, former district co-ordinator of Nehru Yuva Kendra Mr.Rambabu Singh , Social Workers Ms.Putul Pathak and Ms. Rambhabala Srivastav  and advocate Ms. Putul Pathak were the chief Resource Persons.

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For the local women the meet was an enlightening process. Most of the women present had no idea that legally women can claim their share of land from their father or their husband. Advocate Putul Pathak asked women about their opinion regarding the issue of equal land rights. “How can we claim our rights? We are made to be dependent on our men folk”, answered one. Advocate Pathak used this very cue, “ You answer lies in your question. We have been ‘made to be dependent’. It is because we are conditioned to think that way”.  Ms. Reeta Devi highlighted the fact that the violation of land rights for women is ingrained in our system and the discrimination begins with the birth of a girl child.

The women found it very interesting to know how efforts were being made globally on women’s land rights. It was a realization for them that it was a collective cause which was being endorsed globally.

On 4th July 2017, a meet was organised in Rulahi village in East Champaran district. Attended by 45 particpants, this meet was held at Rulahi Primary School. Inaugurating the meet, former Principal of Rulahi High School, Mr. Subhash Chandra Das said that equal land rights for women was not just about equal rights, it was about equal opportunities too. When we are bestowing equal land rights, we are asking women to be equal participants in the process of development. Mrs. Madhavi Das from agricultural department said that it is a known fact that women contribute majorly to agriculture but it is unimaginable for the society to ensure equal land rights to them, She stressed on the fact that women farmers are much more able of handling their land and produce.  Discussing on the problems related to women’s land rights during group discussion, the women pointed out to the fact that in most cases a huge amount of dowry is given to the girl from her parents during marriage. So, it is taken for granted that she will not ask for her share of the property. As a result, women are compelled to accept domestic violence because they realize they cannot go back to their father’s house, nor can they have their own piece of land which they can use for their sustenance. So, one way to ensure equal land rights for women was to do away with a vice like dowry system.

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A similar meet was held at Patura village on 8th of July 2017. Attended by 35 participants, the event was graced by Malti Devi, social activist and moderated by Rambha Srivastav. Malti Devi said that the meet was crucial as it is the first time women are actually discussing about an issue that is considered taboo by the society – women asking for their land rights. The women present hailed the efforts taken in Nepal to promote Joint Land Ownership of women. They felt that Joint Entitlement of Land was one way to ensure their social as well as economic security. Some of the participants also spoke about the need to ensure that land related decision-making process also involves the active participation of women. ‘Having a right legally written on a paper is not enough, we must be heard too’, one of them demanded.

3) Jharkhand

At the tribal village of Surda in East Singbhum district of Jharkhand, a grass-root meet was organised on 9th of June 2017. Held at the local Tribal Community Centre of Lohia Bhawan, 41 rural participants attended the meet.

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Welcoming the participants, Supta Mukherji, founder of Swadhina, stressed that women’s land and property rights was crucial to women’s empowerment. Ms.Sudharani Besra, who is in charge of the Tribal Community Hall stressed on the need to ensure land rights for tribal women – even though the customary law was not pro-women. She felt that tribal women were much ahead in terms of education and they need to raise their voice and demand for land rights for themselves. Leader of local government, the Panchayat head, Ms. Surkurmoni Hembram said that participation of women in local level governance was crucial in order to introduce policies that would support women’s land ownership.Ms. Smriti Srakar facilitated the group studies on initiatives in Nepal and Bangladesh towards women’s land rights.

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On 11th of June 2016 a seminar on women’s land rights was organised at Little Angel School, Ghatsila, East Singbhum. 42 participants took part in this meet. Led by Tribal Rights Activist, Ms. Supriti Murmu, the meet focussed on the initiative by the Jharkhand government to provide registration free of cost to land registered in the name of women. Ms. Murmu said that such initiatives were needed to introduce a positive social change. She highlighted the fact that tribal women face a lot of discrimination when it comes to land laws. Endorsing her views, the participants felt that it was necessary to bring in positive laws and policies that would enforce land rights of women. The benefits of pro-women policies like the free land registration in the name of women was highlighted and was well covered by the media representatives present at the meet. The purpose of the Commitment Based Initiative as a common platform for women’s land rights was also highlighted during the meet.

(Reported by: Swadhina members – Nirmala Sahu, Deepak Srivastav, Smriti Sarkar)