Women's Organizations Protest Countrywide against Assault on Lives, Livelihoods and Democracy
In response to the call given by 6 Left women's organizations, countrywide protests were organized on 28 August 2020 on the issues of protecting women's lives, livelihoods and democratic rights. The organizations which called for the protest are: All India Democratic Women's Association (AIDWA); National Federation of Indian Women (NFIW); All India Progressive Women's Association (AIPWA); All India Agragami Mahila Samiti (AIAMS); Pragati Mahila Sangathan (PMS); and Akhil Bharatiya Mahila Sanskritik Sangathan (AIMSS). All over the country, women gathered to demand government hospitals in all Panchayats to provide health care for all, loan waivers for Self Help Groups, stay on collection of small loans till 31 March 2021, food security, better work conditions, and release of political prisoners and women’s movement activists.
Earlier, these women's organizations had held two joint meetings on 19 and 30 July 2020 and decided to organize countrywide protests on these issues. Representatives of all the 6 organizations expressed grave concern over the severe crisis of women's employment and right to food, aggravated by the pandemic and lockdown. They raised concerns about pending cash transfers to migrant workers and women, deepening agrarian distress, dilution of labour law provisions, and the worsening living conditions for the marginalised amid the pandemic.
At Delhi, activists from the women’s organisations gathered at Shram Shakti Bhawan (headquarters of the Ministry of Labour and Employment), and raised slogans highlighting the fact that people are starving while godowns are full of grain; escalating violence against women; and steep unemployment and attacks on labour laws. Kavita Krishnan, Secretary AIPWA, Annie Raja, General Secretary, NFIW, Mariam Dhawale, General Secretary, AIDWA, Poonam Kaushik of Pragatisheel Mahila Sangathan, and Ritu Kaushik of AIMSS led the protests,
Speaking on the occasion, Kavita Krishnan remarked that the Prime Minister playing with peacocks as citizens struggled to survive, was like Nero fiddling while Rome burns. Modi and his disastrous policies (including demonetisation, the unplanned lockdown, privatisation, and communal hatred) have actually set fire to India’s economy and society. She demanded freedom for women’s movement activists including Sudha Bharadwaj, Shoma Sen, Natasha Narwal, Devangana Kalita and Gulfisha who are in prison for defending India’s Constitution and the rights of India’s most marginalised and oppressed people.
In Patna, AIPWA General Secretary Meena Tiwari joined other AIPWA leaders and leaders of other women’s organisations in a protest demonstration at Dak Bungalow Crossing. Protests were also held all over Bihar: at block and district headquarters in Madhubani, Darbhanga, Ara, Gaya, Begusarai, Siwan, Muzaffarpur, Nalanda, Arwal, Jehanabad.
Protests were held at Jharkhand, West Bengal, Assam, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh, Kerala and other states. AIPWA National President Rati Rao, former AISA President Sucheta De, AIPWA leaders Nagamani, Aruna, Sudha Choudhuri, Shashi Yadav, Saroj Choubey, Farhat Bano, Indrani Dutta, Mrinali Devi, Vijaya, Geeta Mandal, Neeta Bediya, Geeta Pandey, Aarti Rai, Kusum Verma, Meena Singh, Rita Barnwal, Nirmala, Revathy, Shenbagavalli, Filomina and others participated in the protests.
The demands raised by the women all over the country to the Central Government are as follows:
- Set up a committee to study gendered impacts of the pandemic and to understand the severity of it on women for making policies and programmes to mitigate it.
- 50% representation of women should be ensured in ALL ‘Task Force/Committees for impact mitigation of COVID 19.
- Reconstitute the ‘task force’ set up by the PM for Covid mitigation with 50% women members
For Food Security
- To prevent malnutrition and hunger deaths – Distribute ten kg grains per person along with dal, cooking oil and other essential commodities to all cardholders as well as non-card holders; no beneficiary identification, conditions and targeting; it should be given every month till the pandemic crisis is over
- De-link AADHAAR from ration and pension
- Set up decentralised community kitchens with nutritious hot-cooked food at Village Panchayat/Ward level for the elderly, disabled, pregnant and lactating mothers, school students and young children.
- Give the full amount of maternity benefits Rs. 6,000/- (NFSA 2013) in one installment without any disqualifying conditions. Invest more for women and children to ensure a healthy future generation and labour force.
- Recognize the frontline health workers - ASHA, Anganwadi - as workers and institutionalize them with all rights as workers
- Strengthen primary health centers with all facilities as these are the first point of access to women for their health needs
- No privatization of government hospitals. Allocate 6% of GDP for Health
- Expansion of healthcare facilities with universal coverage for both COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients
- Ensure quality education for all children
- To prevent drop out of students, particularly girl students, in this era of online education, ensure access of space like community centres with facilities and uninterrupted electricity supply for study, to those students belonging to poor and vulnerable communities who live in jhuggies, one room houses, shelter homes, etc
- Use PMCARE Fund to provide laptops, smartphones, TVs, etc to students especially to girls from marginalised and poor sections
- Earmark 8% GDP for education
- Enhance financial support substantially for social welfare measures
- Provide financial support of Rs. 10,000/- to all especially those who lost their livelihood under lockdown and to all vulnerable sections of the society
- Give Rs. 10,000/- as monthly financial assistance to landless agricultural workers (60 million women)
- Revert MGNREGA, back as a demand driven Act and increase reservation to 50% for women; increase the per day wage to Rs. 600/- and ensure timely payment
- 50 % reservation for women under Prime Minister’s Garib Kalyan Rozgar Abhiyaan, with equal wage rate
- Ensure employment to all and financial assistance of Rs. 10,000/- to all unemployed in urban areas.
- Enact an Urban Employment Guarantee Act (UEGA) with provisions of 50% reservation for women, equal wage etc.
- 50% of the ‘rented houses’ announced by the PM for migrant workers should be reserved for women workers
SHGs & women farmers
- Waiving of interest and loans for SHGs taken before the lockdown
- Not only collateral free loan BUT also provide interest free loans to SHGs, women farmers, including those who are in poultry, fishing, dairy, etc . It should be speeded up
- Stop harassment of SHG women by MFIs and their collection agents and middlemen
Violence Against Women
- Separate/Special allocation in Budget for creating adequate mechanisms and systems for effective implementation of laws to prevent crimes and violence against women
- Nirbhaya Fund should not be diverted and should be used for the all-round empowerment of the survivors of sexual violence
- Stop crushing Dissent
- Scrap UAPA
- Stop penalizing Dissent, the core of democracy
- Stop arrest, detention and filing of false cases under UAPA against Anti-CAA-NRC-NPR protesters and their supporters
- Judicial Enquiry into Delhi riots and targeted violence at Jamia, both in February 2020
- Release Sudha Bardwaj, Shoma Sen, Gulfisha Fatima, Devangana Kalita, Natasha Narwal, and all those all human rights activists who are imprisoned for dissenting with government policies
- Ensure justice to the ‘Half widows’ of Kashmir and Reinstate statehood of J&K with Article 370 and 35A
- All post COVID-19 era plan of actions and policies should be gender responsive
- In each and every planning process and its implementation for development and nation building, equal representation of women and gender segregated data should be ensured
- Pass Women’s Reservation bill