January 9th, 2016
Source: HindustanTimes | Image Courtesy: dainikbhaskar
The Union Ministry of Women and Child Development(MWCD) had launched the “#100 Women Initiative” in collaboration with Facebook to acknowledge and honour the women who have worked towards the betterment of their communities and societies across India.
One among the 100 achievers chosen through public nominations on social media is Bhanmati from Uttar Pradesh. Bhanmati is going to be honoured by the President, Dr. Pranab Mukherjee, on the 22nd of January this year while she would also dine with him in the Rashtrapathi Bhawan.
The illiterate woman who is a resident of Tediya village of Bahraich was once a simple farm labourer who sold vegetables along with her husband to feed her family. Today she is the source of inspiration for thousands of women because of her persistent strive towards the development of her community.
The inhabitants of the Tediya village which is a van-gram (or forest village) that shares its border with Nepal had fallen prey to the injustices brought about by virtue of its location. The villagers had no citizenship since independence as they had not been incorporated into the revenue department due to which they were not entitled to basic rights.
They were exploited without their knowledge while being forced into doing menial work for the rich landlords in return for a meagre pay. The helpless villagers used to be held captive in the forests and were treated worse than slaves.
Elementary facilities like drinking water, hospitals and schools were a luxury that the villagers could never dream of. Bhanmati said that on numerous occasions her family went to bed without food.
When presented with an opportunity to fight against corruption, Bhanmati embraced it without any hesitation. In 2004 when the Developmental Association for Human Advancement(DEHAT) under the leadership of Jitendra Chaturvedi launched the ‘Vangram Independence Movement’ for the rights of villagers, Bhanmati joined the initiative and rallied for the independence and rights of her community.
During this period she managed to encourage the village women with her fearless protests and marches who supported her by electing her as their leader.
She succeeded in exposing corruption in government schemes through Right to Information(RTI) petitions. She was implacable against authorities while filing 54 RTI applications to uncover corruption embedded in the administration.
Her bravery which was foreseeable trouble to the corrupt bureaucrats led them to threaten Bhanmati who refused to give in by launching the “Mahila Adhikar Manch”. Over 3000 village women joined the organisation.
They demanded reservation for women in government schemes, brought out issues pertaining to female foeticide and strongly opposed the opening of liquor outlets in villages.
Bhanmati led the organization brilliantly and drew attention of the administration several times through various demonstrations and ‘padyatras’. The 50 year old said “It’s a dream come true for me” when asked about her nomination in the 100 women achievers contest. Her community’s dreams and aspirations have truly been realized because of her valour.
Despite being illiterate she has always been a champion of literacy and coerces her people to send their children to school as she believes that corruption can only be erased with education.
On January 22nd the women rights champion shall be felicitated for all the progress that she brought about in her community. She is an inspiration not only to the women of the van-grams but also to the women all over the country.