Gender inequalities are still deep-rooted in every society, especially in rural India. Women suffer from lack of access to basic education, healthcare, livelihood and in many situations are victims of violence and discrimination. They are under-represented in political and economic decision-making processes. In most families, decisions are taken by the male members and finances are controlled by the father, the husband, the brothers or the sons. Women are deprived of the fair share of the property and their opinions are rarely considered seriously. This behaviour is so ingrained in the society for centuries that women have lost their voice and their confidence as an individual. Society has made them always dependant on a male member for everything.
We at Mukti strongly believe that women play a critical role in social, economic and environmental transformation. Women raise the future generations of the country and through their awareness and empowerment we can bring about a social change.
Mukti Community Development Fund (MCDF) project was started with the primary objective of financial empowerment of women in the Sundarbans, where various livelihood development projects were launched to uplift the social status of the women. But over time Mukti started realising that the true sense of empowerment is not only related to earning, as a woman with a stable livelihood can be the most vulnerable person for various other reasons.
Mukti then started the Awareness and Empowerment programs, to address some sensitive issues like gender based discrimination, women rights, violence against women and so on. As Mukti believes in holistic development, rather than taking a women centric approach to resolve gender based issues, it was decided from the very beginning that men will also be included in the process of women empowerment.
We are running 3 different programs under the banner of Mukti Voice, Amplifying community voices (ACV) and Shahoshini, aimed at gender sensitisation and large awareness programs through community campaigns for both men and women. These programs help to develop leadership among the vulnerable communities, particularly women from diverse social and financial backgrounds. The programs develop rights-based perspective in the areas of sustainable livelihood, access to safe drinking water, farming & housing in disaster prone locations etc. Also, collective initiatives to address issues related to child marriage, child labour, right to better school environment, taboos regarding menstruation, and other social issues.
Apart from the above, Multi is also spreading awareness through cultural activities like street play, puppet show, gender role-reversal games for mass campaign and these have been highly successful and popular.
Through these initiatives, women have started making room for themselves to participate in their family’s decision making process, they are taking actions against violence, asking for better treatment in family as well as in social spaces, sharing opinions without fear of judgment, and prioritising their own decisions. Women with this new perspective are becoming change makers in their respective communities, inspiring others to challenge discriminatory norms existing in society, to experience the true meaning of empowerment.
Along with these field level activities, our team is also working with staff, volunteers and members of Mukti, to create awareness and a more sensitised environment. Mukti is adopting multiple safeguarding policies to create a safe space within the organisation. Value education programs are running in 65 Mukti Support Schools, to cover all the teachers in these schools.
Let us all become ambassadors of this change, in our own personal, social and professional lives. Let us not celebrate only one day as women’s day. Our societies will blossom only when women and men contribute as equal partners and become beneficiaries of development, human rights, peace and wellbeing.