International Women’s Day every year on March 8, celebrates the achievements of women from political to social field- while calling gender equality. The day is marked around the world with arts performances, talks, rallies, networking events, conferences and marches.
Woman’s era on the occasion is featuring women achievers from all walks of life, getting insights from their inspirational life and journey to bring about change in society. In the series we first begin with Sampat Pat Devi- an Indian social activist who works for women welfare and empowerment. Hailing from Bundelkhand region of Uttar Pradesh, she is founder of the Gulabi Gang, an Uttar Pradesh-based social organisation, which has more than 20,000 members.
Bundelkhand is one of the poorest districts in the country and is marked by a deeply patriarchal culture, rigid caste divisions, female illiteracy, domestic violence, child labour, child marraiges and dowry demands. The targets of the Gulabi Gang’s vigilantism are corrupt officials and violent husbands. The gang has stopped child marriages, forced police officers to register cases of domestic violence, by slapping them and got roads built by taking the official head on. Sampat says, “We are not a gang in the usual sense of the term, we are a gang for justice.” Sampat has single-handedly helped the women within the community defend themselves and established the relevance of education and women empowerment.
Gulabi Gang knew that their electricity supply had been disconnected by corrupt officials to extract bribes from them to get the power switched back on. With no functioning law to fall back on, they knew the only way to get a power supply was to take matters into their own hands. Within an hour of their absconding with the key, the electricity was restored.
It is not just one heroic act of Gulabi Gang to have become folk heroes, winning public support for a series of operations. Their most daring act was to hijack trucks laden with food meant for the poor that was being taken to be sold for profit at the market by corrupt officials.
Meanwhile, Pal herself is in danger of being criminalised. After complaint by the police, she is waiting to hear the court’s judgement in offences, including unlawful assembly, rioting, attacking a government employee and obstructing an officer in the discharge of duty.”To face down men in this part of the world, you have to use force. I didn’t do anything wrong. I have faith that justice will prevail” says Pal.