Building Single Women’s Leadership In Nandurbar

There is no structured organisation or leadership initiative for the Adivasi women, in Nandurbar. The only way these women work collectively is through Self-Help Groups (SHG). In this district, no one has ever touched the issues of Single Women; neither are their problems acknowledged. Secondly, the work done in this district is only through scheme-oriented tasks (which is not even organised properly), other than SHG. Even the Self-Help Groups are managed by some other people and the single women are only asked to perform minuscule tasks, like collecting money or taking loans etc. Only for namesake.

Since this place is entirely an Adivasi belt, it has different political benefits. Thus, single women are taken advantage of. Through Meena Raju Manch, the issues of single women of these villages began to come in focus. These women began elaborating their concerns such as - their issues as single women, oppression against them through Govt schemes, they losing their husbands due to alcoholism, no support system for them etc. Thus, CORO decided to bring the issues of single women in forefront and create a leadership platform of these women.

Through our Gender Sensitizing Program and Child Rights Program, we started Women Leadership initiative of 100 women in 50 villages of our three districts - Beed, Satara and Nandurbar. Amongst these 100 women, 20 come from Nandurbar. We worked (IMPLEMENTED OUR gldp MODULE) with these women to help them recognize their identities, build leadership quality in them. We felt it was necessary to give visibility to their identities, as these women would travel to different villages and interact with more and more women on different social issues in the village and addressed their concerns sensitively. This process continued for a while. We realized that we needed to give more visible power to them.

To do so, we organised a full-day event in Nandurbar, on 9th February 2020. A major highlight of this program is that the total amount spent was close 3 lakh. But the entire amount was voluntarily funded by the village people themselves, mainly the WOMEN. Some provided infrastructure help such as providing travel facilities, some helped with providing ingredients to prepare food for the people who attended this event. The entire contribution was done by the people. Secondly, women called out loud to all that THIS IS OUR ORGANISATION, AND WE WILL WORK TOGETHER TO ADDRESS AND SOLVE OUR ISSUES. AND, IT IS NECESSARY TO DO SO. The 20 women from our leadership initiative will lead this campaign from the front. The mobilizing strategy of this entire event was that the women themselves communicate and share their vision of this initiative. They traveled to the villages, personally met other women, interacted with them in smaller groups. And, they continued this procedure for several days. More than 60 such interactive meetings took place, in 10 villages. Mobilizing process took place for 20 days. Our leaders mobilized the women from these villages by encouraging them to come together to fight issues faced by them as single women. They conveyed and convinced them by saying that if they want to end violence against single women, they have to come together and fight. There is no other way out. They told them that the event on 9th Feb was specially held for these single women, and they must step ahead to participate in this event. The entire planning of this event was done collaboratively by team CORO and our women leaders. Our main agenda of organizing such an event was to demonstrate a large level visible space for our women leaders.

“आज पर्यन्त आम्ही राजकरणी लोक बोलावले तर जायचो आणि स्टेजवर तेच लोक असायचे… पान आज आमहीची गाड्या घेऊन आलो आणि स्टेजवर पण आम्हीच आहोत.. हीच मोठी गोष्ट आहे.”

This event was truly a special one because it was entirely managed by these women, right from negotiating with the vehicle vendors to making various other booking to inviting people to participate in this event. We witnessed more than 1000 people at this event, while we had expected around 300 to be present. They even convinced the village members to contribute food grains to prepare meals for those who were present.

What next? Through this event and initiative, we plan to create and strengthen women leadership and build a women’s’ organisation, to increase the membership of this organisation and to do so, we need structure it well. To structure it, we first need to strengthen the local self-help groups and increase the number of women leaders from 20 to more such leaders. Secondly, recognize single women and their issues at local level and to do so, our 20 leaders will need to begin with creating advocacy by reaching out to Block Development Officer and Zilla officers. Three level advocacy - Local, Block and Zilla level. Thirdly, to create campaigns on violence against women, at village level.