|CELEBRATING over two decades of organised struggle for women's rights, nearly 250 delegates of the Janwadi Mahila Samiti (JMS), Delhi state unit of the All India Democratic Women's Association (AIDWA) concluded its two-day conference on August 17, focussed on the lives of women in the national capital territory of Delhi.
Recalling its rich history of struggle, built through the untiring efforts of the poor women of the capital, mostly slum dwellers, the delegates saluted the women who have emerged as fighters through a history of personal trauma or by fighting exploitative policies at work. Sarwinder, having walked out of a traumatic marriage 21 years ago with the support of the AIDWA, has emerged as an activist. Guddi, a worker in a factory in West Delhi, had organised her unit to fight the management's repressive tactics. Maina from Shakurpur is still busy fighting the local police, who are out to demolish their workplace in collusion with the BJP unit. Shiva Kanti had joined the union workers' struggle despite being pregnant. She even delivered her baby in jail. Simmi, a young widow, had mustered the strength to fight for her rights in face of the wrath of her in-laws after her husband's tragic death. All these women derived strength from an emerging movement of women and who in turn joined in to make their contribution.
Earlier, inaugurating the conference, AIDWA general secretary Brinda Karat recalled the splendid contribution of Indian women in the struggle against imperialism during the freedom movement. The organisation has grown along with the movement. But, she pointed out, while we are able to confront and ask for accountability within the country, from the /Daroga/ upwards, what about the 'international /Daroga/' who is busy issuing diktat and bossing over us? Earlier the imperialist rulers used the policy of 'divide and rule,' but today the RSS is busy wrecking it from within. Yet they have the audacity to charge the women's organisation with spreading discord and breaking up the families. It is their policies of exploitation, discrimination and the market /mantra, /which they are chanting alongwith their international allies, which is responsible for the break-up of the family.
Smt Bilasini Bal, minister of tribal development in West Bengal, drew attention to the fact that 43 per cent of the elected representatives in the panchayati raj institutions in that state are women. Over 46,000 /pattas/ have been given to the rural poor and Adivasi women. The government has made advances in extending provident fund facilities to Adivasi and Dalit sections of the population, and in facilitating the spread of education. Despite all the adverse circumstances, the West Bengal government is trying to give priorities to issues of development and social security.
The two-day conference reviewed the growth of the JMS, its interventions and its organisational strengths as well as weaknesses. 62 delegates who participated in discussion demonstrated tremendous self-confidence and asserted that they will continue their struggle against poverty, violence and communalism. For, they have understood that it is not their 'fate' which is responsible for their suffering but the policies of the ruling classes and the patriarchal ideology that is dominating the society. They have also understood how they can bring the required transformation only through their struggles. A delegate expressed beautifully as to how the same women who had earlier looked at a women's organisation with suspicion are now respecting it. She said: /"phale kahate the Avara, ab kahate hain ankhon ka tara"/ (first we were dubbed as vagabonds, now we have become a matter of pride).
The conference was also addressed by Captain Lakshmi Sahgal, veteran freedom fighter, whose enthusiasm and spirit added to the confidence and resolve of the delega
In its concluding session, the conference elected a new 39-member state committee with Ms Kirti Singh as president, Soniya Varma as working president and Ashalata as general secretary for the next three years.