Radhika Ghanshyam Bhure of Bhandara district, Maharashtra
1.How did you first become involved with Mahila Vikas Parishad and what is your status now?
I first got involved with Mahila Vikas Parishad (MVP) around seven years ago. I came to the counseling centre in Bhandara to seek support as my husband and his family members used to abuse me. There I met, Mrunal Munishwar of Yuva, who helped me.. They called my husband to the counseling centre, and I started living separately with only my husband and mother-in-law and the violence reduced.. After this, I became a member of the Mahila Vikas Parishad (MVP).
Before this, I was a member of Mahila Mandal, the women's group and Bachat Gat, the savings group, in my village. I am now the MVP Economic Affairs Convener in Bhandara district. I also help victims of abuse and refer these women to other services and support as required and other forms of support.
2.What has been the most significant change in your life as a result of this involvement?
I have become economically empowered. Being self-reliant has been the key change in my life.
In the last two years I have been involved in the struggle to oppose the Government's proposed take-over of our land. This is happening to relocate people displaced by the Koshi Dam. The paralegal training provided by MVP, helped my friend Bhugave and me to organise a group of the 31 families who will be affected by the land take-over, together. We prepared a legal challenge to the take-over with the help of the MVP.
First, we convinced the 31 families who were going to lose their land to stand firm against this Government action. Then, we served notices to Government officials, police and the tehsildar. We also visited the Nagpur District Collector (magistrate) to present our case and proposed that he provide displaced families with land from forests in Government custody.
Then, we went to the Pinkeypar community who were about to be displaced to convince them that the land identified by the Government was too small to accommodate 150 families and that this would divide their village. We advocated to their Gram Sabha to pass a resolution to reject the Government's proposal for relocation. This resolution was passed, and both communities opposed the Government's plan.
Now, we are in the process of finalising our research about other Government relocation drives that have gone wrong. For example, in one place only 10 out of 150 families were provided with new housing. We want to use this as evidence in support of our case.
Currently, there is a stay on the Government's proposal for relocation and land confiscation so all of our land has been saved for the time being.
3. What brought about this change?
This has been a long process of change over the time that I have been involved with Mahila Vikas Parishad for myself and my family. I am now self-reliant and economically stable. My husband too has learnt about equal rights. I am now the main decision-maker in my home, I have been sensitised to issues of power, economics, gender and control. I stand on my feet and am the main breadwinner in the family. My family supports me. My husband is no longer abusive, my daughters are studying and are not afraid of speaking their minds.
4. What are the challenges that remain?
It is the family that holds a woman back. In particular, mothers-in-law and husbands fear that a woman will abandon her domestic responsibilities if allowed to be independent. They also fear that the woman will dominate the family. Only when families are sensitised about equal rights will this attitude change in the future.