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Beyond The Regressive Patriarchy Of Supreme Court: The Role Of Women Farmers

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The Patriarchal Order Of The Supreme Court

The challenges faced by women farmers have been historically ignored. The recent decision of the Supreme Court to set up a committee with the objective of dissolving the farmer’s protests – constituting all-male members – is a continuation of such ignorance. The only perspective with which their existence was acknowledged was through a regressive lens to question why women and old people being “kept” as part of the protests.

The connotation of the word “kept” is not only discriminatory but also trivializes the very existence and hard work of women farmers. The real question is why is there not a woman in the committee to decide the fate of the much-contended farm laws in the country? De-regulating agricultural laws have the same impact on women as well as men. The implementation of these laws will cause grievances for which equal representation should be ensured. The crux of this Court Order is based on “good faith” and “confidence” but is that only towards the men?

The Supreme Court’s question of why women are at the farmer’s protest highlights their regressive, patriarchal mindset.

Why Should We Care

The lockdown measures and the protests have been ongoing for the past year. This has had a tremendous impact on all households. However, the economic hardships faced by farmer households across Punjab and Haryana have been extreme. Despite this, women farmers stood alongside their male counterparts through the rain and cold to express dissent. This is an empowering feat for the women who already lead to unrecognized and difficult lives and are much more vulnerable to poverty and landlessness. In the absence of men, women farmers are currently leading a number of protest sites across Punjab.

The Mahila Kisaan Adhikaar Manch (MAKAAM), which campaigns for the rights of women farmers have stated that about 75 percent of all the farm work is conducted by women yet only about 12 percent own their own lands. A similar statistic was put out by Oxfam as well. The gender-blind approach of the agricultural industry is problematic and reaffirmed by such underrepresentation.

Representational Image

Women farmers suffer from invisibility and underrepresentation showing the need for representation in the Supreme Court panel.

Women farmers constantly fight ‘invisibility’ despite being active members and working a full-time job as farmers. This battle for them is not just a way to show dissent but also a shout for identity and recognition. In a world where the voices of women are constantly silenced, this reaffirms the treatment of women as second-class citizens.

These women are not only worried about their own ‘invisibility’ when it comes to land ownership but also worry about maintaining their households and feeding their kids. Interviews conducted by Aljazeera and The Wire of the women farmers living in the makeshift homes in tractors reveal the deep-rooted issue. It also illustrates the urgent need to include a female representative in the final committee set up by the Supreme Court.

Around 2000 women farmers from all walks of life were protesting on the Tikri border against the farm laws that directly impact them. The underrepresentation is therefore appalling. This protest saw a number of women farmers interacting with major media channels and foundations in an attempt to be recognized as real full-time farmers. During the protests, women also made sure to collect and distribute rations from their homes at the protest sites.

If a negotiation were to take place it should be done in the presence of representatives from all aggrieved groups. The discussion should include the voices, perspectives, and grievances of all farmers. This is the only way to ensure an inclusive approach to the agitation and discontentment faced by the farmers.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

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A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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