Indian Women Take the Streets, Demand Change: Women’s March 2019

On the 4th of April 2019, Delhi echoed with the voices of women demanding change. Civil societies, unions, organizations, and women and men of diverse communities took to the streets. They upheld the banner- ‘औरतें उट्ठी नहीं तो ज़ुल्म बढ़ता जाएगा – Women March For Change’. Their demand was to change the direction the country is headed towards.

“Auretain Uthi Nahi Toh”, a collective rendition

The slogans Azaadi! Inquilab Zindabad! Halla Bol! echoed the streets as more than 2000 women marched from Mandi House to Jantar Mantar. Upon reaching Jantar Mantar, the stage was set for the day and the program began with the songs of protest by RAAG.  Activists, journalists, women leaders, students groups and children performed and spoke about the slack in policy implementation, and the need for inclusion of women’s issues, girl child education, rights of backward caste and classes, and farmer’s issues among others.

There were activists members of the Dalit Mahila Andolan who accused the current government of failing the Dalit and Adivasi women across the country. An activist called the Ujjwala scheme ‘farce’, and highlighted the lack of healthcare in the rural areas. “The roads in rural India are still unfit for ambulances. Villagers die daily due to a lack of health care and hospitals. These regions are overwhelmingly Dalit and Adivasi regions and if this isn’t hinting a massive scale of discrimination, then what is it?”

The gathering at Jantar Mantar

Haleema from the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan said that despite the government schemes like the Beti Padhao and Beti Bachao, there is an alarming drop-out rate of women in the country. She even said that by putting the focus on triple talaak, the government is taking the attention away from important issues like illiteracy and the unavailability of schools in the rural areas.

Suman of Satark Nagrik spoke about the challenges faced by women who reside in the bastis. “Our homes are constantly under threat. We want our basic rights.”
Arti of National Network of Sex Workers talked about the promises made by the government and how even after 5 years of their leadership none of them have been implemented.

Kunta, a farmer

Kunta a representative of a women farmers collective spoke about how women, even after working side to side with men, are still treated as secondary to men. “Women’s labor has not been properly recognized in the country. Women’s work goes unnoticed and ignored.”

“All we need is love. We are not treated as citizens.”

Pavel, a transgender activist was the last speaker and ended on a very powerful note that resonated with the women of every community and background. “ We have been spoken about in history, we are present in our history, our culture and yet in 2019 we still aren’t treated equally. We know ourselves better than anyone else. Why does the government refuse to sit with us, communicate with us and then form Bills and Laws? We will not be spoken about, we will speak for ourselves” she said.

Rahul and Sanjay, musicians

Musicians Rahul Ram and Sanjay Rajoura performed parody songs mocking the government. Sanjay of the duo said, “If you can’t fight patriarchy in your own families, there is no point fighting the men outside.”

Artist Maya Rao performed the art of wearing a sari calling the attire genderless! The Sanghwari Group, Dhaatin, MC Freezak, and students from Aman Biradari also took to the stage to sing songs of resistance, equality, and freedom. The program was concluded by a collective rendition of “Auretain Uthi Nahi Toh”.
The march saw the presence of thousands of women belonging to rural India, urban cities, universities and every day women of the country. The movement began with just one group in Delhi and spread to 18-22 states in villages and district headquarters now holding press conferences, and forming arteries of the movement, observed the organizers.

Artist Maya Rao in performance

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