Power – or the lack of it – lies at the heart of women’s inequality. Thus, forming SHGs or Self Help Groups was the means and not the end itself. Cycle banks gave women mobility but also confidence. Leading violence free lives is the right of every woman. For us at the ant, women’s empowerment means awakening the power within women and creating an eco-system where men are unafraid to share power with women.
a. Jagruti groups & Jagruti Federation
the ant’s first intervention in the community was forming women’s Self Help Groups (called Jagruti Groups), which carry out savings & credit and income generation activities. These groups have been further federated into Jagruti Federations, which work on ‘Stopping Violence Against Women and Girls’ and run chapters of the Jagruti Women’s Cycle Bank. These federations have grown so much that they are able to independently plan and execute women’s day celebrations which involve over 4000-5000 women and men from communities and other social campaigns.
No. of members in Jagruti Groups – 2800
No. of Jagruti Groups – 250
No. Of Jagruti Federations – 12
- the ant’s next real big challenge is to have a robust programme to involve men and boys in working for women and girl’s empowerment.
- Another challenge is to build up women from our groups systematically to take on leadership in their villages and societies.
Assembly elections were announced in Feb 2016 . Along with other civil society groups, we saw in it an opportunity to place before political parities our own manifesto – a woman’s manifesto. With International Women’s Day round the corner, the ant team along with our Jagruti groups hit the roads with the ‘Include Women’ campaign. We pushed the political parties – who were by then trying to hijack our strong women federation leaders to swing women’s votes in their favor – to adopt our manifesto. The campaign saw over 3000 women getting involved and created debate in village tea shops and also in homes!
b. Women’s Cycle Bank
When most people in the country were upgrading to cars, in 2006 we responded to the needs of our women in villages – for a cycle. With no public transport system at that time and with poor roads, cycles were the only sensible means to get around. Women with their traditional clothes could not get on to men’s cycles and men never bought women cycles of their own! So, we decided to start cycle rental services in villages which later went on to become a sustainable revolving cycle bank. It helps women buy cycles on loans and puts put mobility and power into the hands of women.
No. of cycles in the bank – 800
No.of cycle bank chapters – 7
Girls dance, while the boys play the music instruments. This has been the long accepted gender norm in our Bodo villages. Challenging this norm, two young women from our Rowmari youth parliament started playing the khaam (long drum) and the sifung (bamboo flute) in a workshop we supported to revive and preserve traditional music among youth in our villages. With pride, we watched the two girls lead the procession in the opening ceremony of the Bodo Sahitya Sabha (the highest literary body of the Bodos). This has emboldened more young women to learn the traditional instruments. Today, our troupe of girl musicians is much in demand to perform all over Bodoland.