NBA Press Release
  21 March 2008
Save The Narmada, Save Humanity!

Women's Day Remembered in the Narmada Valley: Women's Role Crucial in People's Struggles for Life and Livelihood.

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Women of the Narmada valley came together on March 10th to commemorate the Women’s day in Badwani. The crucial and critical contributions of women who upheld the dignity and rights of the people of the Narmada valley were remembered. The gathering of about 200 women vividly recalled the contributions of both, women who had passed away while participating in the struggle as also the present activists who continue the struggle in the villages. Kamla Yadav, a longtime senior activist in the movement, coordinated the event, and was also recognized for her contributions. Soniben, the President of the Badwani Mahila Mandal was the Chief Guest.

Many women, whose contributions have been invaluable to the movement, were recognized and they spoke about their experiences. These women include, Shanta Yadav, Sajanben, Mantijiji, Rukhmini kaki, Nisarbai Kevat, Nandini, Sonyaji, Mantibai from Nisarpur, Bhavatibai from Nisarpur and Jankibai. They spoke about their understanding of the struggle and their role in it. It was an inspiring experience for all those who gathered.

Sajanben spoke of women’s right to land and resources. Shantaben said “women of Nimad would never have come forward but for the movement which facilitated their presence to emerge on the public scene. We are more rooted and empowered by participating in the struggle for the last 20 years”. She said that adivasi women and Nimadi women have learned a lot from each other while working together in the Narmada movement. Rukhmini kaki said that the Special Rehabilitation Package (SRP) is anti-women. She said, “we ‘should not touch money’ that is deceptive and takes away the land under our feet while leaving some paper notes in our hand”. Kamlu didi spoke of child mortality and infanticide which is prevalent in some villages and among some communities and said that unless we completely overcome these evils, we do not have the moral right to celebrate women’s day. She remembered that women’s movement achieved voting rights and representation in legislature bodies, but have a long way to go in achieving genuine political freedom and decision making power.

There were representatives from Jobat dam such as Idiben and Masariben as well. Idiben spoke of how their men were cheated after they were promised fertile lands and other facilities as compensation. Women were never consulted in the process.

The new generation of activists made their presence felt by shouting slogans and singing songs. They were led by Dimple and Shama, young women who have participated in the struggle since they were children. Slogans such as, “Narmada ki nari kai se hai? Phool nahi singari hai” (The women of Narmada are not flowers, but fiery sparks), reverberated the air.

The participation of women in the movement, their political and personal journeys, and the process of self-emancipation along with the struggle for their rights were reaffirmed. Nandiniben spoke eloquently about her participation in the struggle as a fulltime activist for several years, and emphasized how she chose to participate in Andolan and work with freedom and determination. She remembered Baliben, Jesiben and Budhiben (Antras) of Gujarat who had to overcome many barriers and obstacles to participate fully in Andolan.

Shobha Wagh, the activist of NBA who drowned in the SSP reservoir and Chayyaben of Koyna dam struggle were also remembered.

A film was screened on the struggles in Nandigram and Singur and the experiences of women there who had to face the cruelty from the governing authorities, from police and goons. They discussed how the struggles against displacement and for land and natural resources are all one struggle and hence the need for solidarity.

Medha Patkar spoke about the spirit of women in the struggle, and how women have to face both struggles of liberation inside the home and against the government as well and how there is a need to break free of both. She emphasized the relationship between women and natural resources, along with their right to property and said “the women from Nandigram to Narmada and from Kakinada to Mumbai slums are struggling for asserting this. The women from Narmada valley have a major role to play in the fight for Justice”. She reaffirmed the mantra of the women’s movement, ‘the personal is political’.

After the meeting, the women went to the District Collector Mr. Yashpal’s office, and confronted him on the status of the inadequate rehabilitation of the dam affected and illegal cash compensation and fake registries. The women demanded that their issues be addressed concretely and the Collector agreed to look into the matter.

The proceedings for the day ended with women reaffirming their faith in struggle and deciding to continue the struggle with more vigour.

The Narmada valley is celebrating the ‘Holi festival’ today and we wish you all ‘Meaningful and Joy-filled Holi Celebration’.

Ashish Mandloi
Kailash Awasya