This year in India, 8 March was as usual the platform for Governments to announce all sorts of formal announcements of largesse for women. AIPWA asserted the revolutionary legacy of 8 March, with its history of militant working women’s movements for wages, political participation and dignity, and challenged the Governments at the Centre and States to fulfil the rights of women.
In Delhi AIPWA held a Dharna at Parliament Street, protesting against the UPA Government’s failure to deliver on its promises to women. Hundreds of women, mostly toiling women from Delhi’s slum clusters and unauthorised colonies, participated in the dharna, holding placards and raising slogans demanding tabling of the 33% Reservation Bill in the Budget Session of Parliament, and protesting against price hikes and the denial of basic rights like civic amenities, water, education and safety to the working women of the national capital. The Dharna was addressed by AIPWA National General Secretary Kumudini Pati, Delhi AIPWA Convenor Uma Gupta, office bearers of the JNU Students’ Union Shephalika Shekhar and Pallavi Deka, and many women activists who gave an account of their lives and struggles.
At Lucknow, AIPWA held a dharna in front of the Vidhan Sabha, in which women from all over Uttar Pradesh participated – from Sitapur, Lakhimpur Kheri, Kanpur, Varanasi, Deoria, Mirzapur, Ghazipur, Moradabad and other districts. AIPWA National President Srilata Swaminathan presided over the dharna and mass meeting. Comrade Srilata spoke of the ways in which globalisation had intensified women’s exploitation and insecurity. National Vice President of AIPWA Tahira Hasan spoke of the manifold increase in atrocities on Muslim and dalit women since Mayawati came to power – the atrocities at Shravasti and Bhadohi are the latest examples. The Dharna was also addressed by AIPWA State Secretary Vidya Rajwar, Kisan Sabha leader Krishna Adhikari, Jasodhara Dasgupth from Sahyog, Shahnaz Sitrat from Bazm-e- khawatin, AIPWA leaders Premlata and Gita, Sarita, Ranjana, Meena, Shalini and many others. A memorandum was submitted to the UP Governor.
The West Bengal unit of AIPWA organised a march to Nandigram on 8 March 2008, where since last year women have led the struggle against land grab and borne the brunt of the CPI(M) cadre violence and state terror. Carrying colourful banners and posters, comrades paid floral tributes at the martyr’s columns — very recently constructed by the struggling masses to commemorate the first anniversary of the great resistance struggle and massacre of 14 March 2007 — in Gokulnagar-Adhikaripara and Sonachura market. At the latter place, a street-corner meeting was also held. Speakers including AIPWA state president Gita Das, State Secretary Chaitali Sen and CPI (ML) State leader Mina Pal addressed the gathering. Local women and men participated in the programmes with great enthusiasm.
In Jharkhand Women’s Day was celebrated at 17 places including Ranchi, Bundu, Tamar, Hazaribagh, Ramgarh, Giridih, Saria, Bagodar, Rajdhanwar, Birni, Dhanbad, Bokaro, Devghar, Dumka, Lohardaga and Gumla. Protest demonstrations, dharnas, sit-ins, and mass meetings were held with the day being observed as Dhikkar Diwas for the incapability of the Madhu Koda Govt. in guaranteeing employment for women under NREGS.
In Tirunelveli, the AICCTU and Workers’ Rights Forum organized a demonstration on March 8. The demonstration condemned the lockout of Damodar Beedi Company as a measure of victimizing beedi workers for fighting under the banner of AICCTU; a lockout that affected 4000 beedi workers’ families. The demonstration sought immediate Government intervention on the issue.
In Pallipalayam of Namakkal Dist, AICCTU and Workers Rights Forum held an Open Air Convention. Comrade Thenmozhi of Working Women’s Rights Forum led the convention. Comrade N K Natarajan, State GS of AICCTU and Comrade Bhuvana, State Secretary, AICCTU, and Comrade Rajeswari of AIPWA addressed the convention.
The Convention demanded that the ‘Mangal Sutra’ Scheme in the textile industry must be abolished and Model Standing Orders Act must be amended to reduce the trainee period to 6 months and treat those who are employed in direct production as permanent workers.
In Chennai, Workers’ Right Forum and AIPWA held a convention which was led by Comrade Devaki of AIPWA. In all these meetings, demands such as 5 cent homestead patta for unorganized workers, Rs. 2000 pension for unorganized workers, amending TU Act to provide for TU recognition etc. were raised. These meetings called for women of TN to mobilize in large numbers in CPI(ML)’s Assembly Gherao to be held on March 27.
On 8th March a convention was held at Vijaywada on ‘Violence on Women – Failure of Governments – Role of Women’, which was attended by nearly 300 women from East and West Krishna and Ananthapur districts. AIPWA State Secretary Comrade Nagamani presided over the convention. Speakers included Jaladi Vijaya (a prominent poet), Aruna, Gayathri, Ratna Kumari, Manga, and Parvathi. On the eve of Women’s Day, dharnas on various women’s issues were held at Mandal HQs of Yeleswaram, Jaggampeta, Prathipadu and Peethapuram.
In Mansa, Punjab, AIPWA held a Women’s Conference in which more than 300 women took part. The Conference raised the issues of privatisation of government schools, hospitals, water projects, and the electricity board, price rise, as well as the practise of female infanticide that the Government was doing nothing to stop. The Conference was preceded by a series of campaign meetings in villages and towns in the district. Comrade Jasbir Kaur presided over the Conference.