“Munh Sii Ke Ab Jee Na Paaungi, Zara Ye Sab Se Keh Do” (I won’t be able to keep quiet and live anymore, please tell this to everyone). If activism ever got lyrical, it was due to Kamla Bhaseen, the septuagenarian firebrand feminist leader and South Asia Convener of One Billion Rising. Her wonderfully coloured poems that have since been converted into brilliant songs are poignant as well as inspiring. They tell many stories of women and their struggles with patriarchy, with masculinity, with social evils and gender biases.
According to Bhaseen, “Women are forever told to save themselves from the devils loitering outside, but little do they know that their biggest adversaries live right inside the house. 80% of women go through regular violent bouts, right inside their households, and the perpetrators are their family members. This happens regularly in both urban and rural households. So, what gives me strength to go on? It’s these 1,400 women, who have stepped out of their homes, with their children, to come to this programme. These women have proved right here that they are aware of their rights, each one of them. This gives me strength to go on.”
Questioning the patriarchal institutions of religion, culture, customs, traditions like rakhi, bhaidooj, Karwachoth, she said “now it is high time to change these traditions and make it bhai-behen dooj and rakhi where both brother sister tie rakhi to each other. Karwachoth should be observed by husbands also as both are protecting both, both needs both. Bhaseen was addressing a programme organised on the occasion of ‘International Women’s Day’ on the Babar Haveli premises. Oxfam India, CASA and Sajha Manch, a conglome-ration of several women’s, Adivasis and Dalit Rights groups had jointly hosted the programme, which saw a huge turnout of women from  eight districts of Chhattisgarh. They sang revolutionary songs, welcomed each other with ‘Dhaan, Nagada and warm hugs’. Apart from the formalities, the general ambience reeked of a terrific hunger for independence, solidarity and representation. Activist Shashi Sayal, who has been at the forefront of Liquor Prohibition Agitation more commonly known as ‘Daru Bandi’ across the rural heartland of Chhattisgarh, and also carved a niche for herself in the field of Dalit, Bahujan Mahila Adhikaar said that the women of Chhattisgarh were fighting a war of unique dispossession and inequality of wages.
Women who spend a lifetime doing farming related works are not represented in the govt records as farmers. Rather, they remain as farm hands, minus any of the compensation and benefits. Similarly, the domestic helps are extremely exploited, as they are not organised and are never paid justified wages. Sayaal added that women who started the movement in USA around 150 years back, are now counted in each of these women who have come here in Chhattisgarh today. Harshita Pandey of Womens’ Commission stated that just like cattle, who belong to their buyers, women are handed over to other families via marriage by their families.  This process changes their identity, name and their entire lives. She added that women could only be on a par with men, when they are given equal window of opportunity and that