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Jharkhand Mahila Manch

26 August 2015 Share: facebook share twitter share

From 26-27 August, 78 women’s rights organisations from across Jharkhand came together at a 2-day seminar to form Jharkhand Mahila Manch – a state-level women’s forum who will work together on advocacy priorities agreed at the event. The seminar was organised by PACS partner Prerana Bharati, supported by PACS.

Women’s rights in India

India is traditionally a patriarchal society where men are seen to be the heads of households and women are expected to stay in the home, excluded from the economic and political spheres of life.

Although there are several progressive laws, campaigns and schemes launched by the Government of India to promote women’s rights (such as the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act, the Immoral Traffic Prevention Act (ITPA) and the Prevention of Witch (Dayan) Practices Act) implementation of these acts and schemes has been very poor, especially in reaching poor and marginalised women.

As Johnson Topno – State Manager for PACS in Jharkhand – highlighted, “The government has enormous funds for the development of the women but none has been utilised in an effective way. Civil society should develop strategies to demand the funds from the government and accordingly put them to use.”

Bringing women’s organisations together

In Jharkhand, there are many civil society organisations who have been working on women’s issues. Until now, these organisations have usually worked in a fragmented and isolated way, struggling to bring about change on their own.

The seminar was organised to bring together these organisations (including women’s groups, networks, academics and researchers) to share their experiences, challenges and successes, and to develop common advocacy strategies and solutions to the problems.

Jharkhand Mahila Manch – a state-level women’s forum – was created at the seminar. By working together, rather than alone, it is hoped that the  organisations involved in the Manch will have a better impact in influencing administration and policy makers.

Working together with government

The Chief Guest at the event was Dr. Louis Marandi - Honorable Minister for Welfare and Social Welfare from the Government of Jharkhand. She congratulated PACS and Prerana Bharati for organising the initiative to bring together all the organisations working for the rights and entitlements of women in Jharkhand.

She also highlighted the crucial role of civil society, recognising that the government should always work hand in hand with the NGOs to deliver services for women effectively. “Civil society plays an important role in the overall empowerment of women,” she said.

Mahua Manjhi - Chairperson of the State Commission for Women in Jharkhand – spoke about how the exploitation of women is rampant through all castes, creeds and religions: “Women are continuously being tortured, killed, and abused in the name of superstitions.” She said there was an urgent need to address this.

Dr. Louis Marandi (Honorable Minister for Welfare and Social Welfare from the Government of Jharkhand) and Dr. Mahua Manjhi (Chairperson of the Jharkhand State Commission for Women) both spoke at the event. Dr. Louis Marandi (Honorable Minister for Welfare and Social Welfare from the Government of Jharkhand) and Mahua Manjhi (Chairperson of the Jharkhand State Commission for Women) both spoke at the event.

Working together with the Police

In her speech, Sampat Meena, (an Inspector General of Police for the Organised Crime Criminal Investigation Department of Jharkhand) focused on the various acts that have been implemented to prevent violence against and exploitation of women.

She told all participants how important it is for them to be aware of the present acts so that they can make others aware regarding them: “Women should be motivated to raise their voice because if they remain silent and ignorant towards violence then the exploitation will never end.” 

She then highlighted various initiatives that have been implemented in Jharkhand to stop violence against women including:

  • A helpline number (9771432103) to register witch–hunting cases.
  • Establishing Anti-Human Trafficking Units in Police Stations.
  • The development of a monitoring cell at the Criminal Investigation Department  to focus on witch-hunting cases.

She also spoke about the 33% reservation for women working in the Police Force that has been passed by the Government of India – an important step towards women’s empowerment. She said that by recruiting women into the Police, female victims of abuse and exploitation will be encouraged to share their issues and problems more freely.

Advocacy priorities

Over the 2 days, the following priorities were identified as being the most important for advocacy in Jharkhand:

  • The empowerment of women Panchayat (village council) members – by empowering women to speak out about the issues they face in their communities, greater action will be taken.
  • Violence against women – domestic violence, witch hunting and trafficking were all issues that were raised as common and urgent problems that need to be tackled.
  • Health and nutrition issues – in order to break the Cycle of malnutrition by improving the health & nutritional status amongst women and adolescent girls of the state
  • Economic empowerment – in order to help women to become economically empowered, it is vital to invest in education and skill development.

Strategies and recommendations on the above advocacy priorities were developed by the seminar attendees. These will be submitted to the concerned government ministers and departments in a report in the first week of September.

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