By Manjula Pradeep*
Navsarjan Trust and Gujarat Women Rights Council (GWRC) began its campaign of the International Women’s Day, March 8, in Choraniya village of Limbdi block in Surendranagar district. During the campaign, which took place in a large number of villages of the district, the team interacted with several suffering women, young and old, as also school-going children, and was shocked to find unprecedented discrimination in Gujarat’s rural areas. Developmental work has not touched these villages, especially their Dalit areas. Dalit women feel further neglected and discriminated against.
In Nana Timla village of Limbdi taluka, there was Jamunaben, who is aged 25, but has never been to a school, as she is the oldest sibling in the family, and must look after her younger brothers and sisters. In the same village, we met a young, ailing Dalit woman, Meenaben. She was found to be suffering from a sickness called pedal edema and abdominal distortion. Her hemoglobin is 2.1g. She has been suffering for the last four months. This is the second bout of her sickness. Her husband has given her divorce. She comes from a very poor family. Her father passed away, when she was four. Navsarjan volunteers took her to the VS Hospital in Ahmedabad and they are taking care of her.
At Vitthalgadh village of Lakhtar taluka, during the campaign, we met several suffering women, mainly widows. Induben’s husband met with an accident and passed away eight years ago. She has three very young children. She has not received any financial support from the Gujarat government. She cannot read and write, and survives by working on the farm of her in-laws. Savitaben is a widow for the last five years. She lives alone. She does not get any widows pension. Ratanben lost her three sons and hasn’t received any help from the state. Sakinaben complained her brother has refused to help her. Sitaben takes care of her parents for the last 20 years, as her two brothers never took care of the parents. Labhuben has three sons, of whom two live in Gandhinagar and are engaged in labour work. The son who lives with her is alcoholic. She sells vegetables and earns her livelihood.
Following the campaign programme at Bhatariya village of Lakhtar taluka, we went to Chharad village of the same taluka. We found that village is extremely backward. Out of 400 houses, only three houses have toilets and bathrooms. We wondered: Why the clean India campaign has not reached this village? Women leaders shared their concern at the programme. We were told that people are not provided any benefit through any kind of schemes, whether it is toilet, housing, and or anything else. Our campaign programme came to at Savda village in Patdi block of Surendranagar district.
*Director, Navsarjan Trust, convener, Gujarat Women Rights Council, Ahmedabad