“We witnessed in this Lock down that how much environmental damage has been done, how deep social inequality that grasped millions of lives is. How unemployment made the lives more and more miserable."
These are the words of Mrs. Pratima Kumari Paswan whom I recently had an opportunity to interview with. She is very woke and feels strongly for the injustice happening around with women, in particular for tribal women.
She is the Chairperson of Gaurav Gramin Mahila Vikash Manch, an NGO working for the tribal women's welfare and rights in Bihar.

“I have been the part of GGMVM since June 2019 as a Chairperson. It's been more like a family here and together we work for the education and rights o tribal women."

Here is more from the Interview…

So Ms. Pratima, having faced the society space for women closely, what according to you is the reason for the current female scenario?
From childhood itself it's been engraved in our minds that our birthplace is not our home! You should do this type of work; you must not question and be obedient. So according to me society is a vertical stratum which should be horizontal and we women were never perceived as an actual part of this society, and were seen just as a necessity.

Ma'am can you clarify the difference between the Horizontal and Vertical strata of our society?
(laughs)..Yes ! Our society has socio-economic divide in a vertical manner where the highest level is perceived as superior and vice versa. Whereas it must be horizontal which will result in an equal division and all the work will be seen as equal necessity for all.

That's truly thoughtful ma'am. Please share more about your work with GGMVM.

I have been a part of GGMVM family since last year and it's quite liberating I must say! As a Chairperson, I supervise all the welfare initiatives that have been going on. We interact with women and children on a daily basis where they share about the difficulties, be it household or business related.

So they do some sort of business too?
Yes! You can say small scale business of medicines, spices, handcrafts, etc.
Also, we provide the basic education for children and vocational training for women for their self-sustenance.
That's almost like the Movie Gulab Gang ! (laughs)

True that !
So, Ma'am do you think today these women has been able to stand up for themselves?
Yes definitely ! Today most of them run their household and teach children on their own. They have been more vocal about their needs and problems than before. Recently we ran a campaign for Parivar Niyojan (Birth Control) where insights about population control were given as well as some monetary help.

Can you share the problems faced by these women in their day to day life?
(laughs) That's a long list ! Ek to Jungle jo unka ghar h ab ghar nahi rha.
We have been dependent on our forest since eternity. These women are very knowledgeable about medicinal plants and herbs. We buy raw materials from them which are used in making herbal products.
(sigh) But it won't be long when this forest will disappear too.

What about the Government?
Sarkar hi to ye sab kr rhi h kehte hue ki Vikash aayega ! Par ye nahi sochti ki Jungle ke siwa humare pass kuch bacha nahi h !
They will make roads and railways but would they provide us employment or food?

That's definitely true ma'am. Have you ever thought of Chipkoo movement ? Let's start it here too !
(Laughs) Will try for sure.

Going back to the earlier situation, why did you decide to be a social worker? Who inspired you?
The situation our people are facing motivated me. Growing up I always saw the patriarchal mindset and how women are being thrashed in every household. So I pursued my masters in Sociology and decided to stay here and work for this cause. It feels good when you see your efforts bringing even a little change.

That's truly Inspiring ma'am.
( smiles) We must be the change we want around ourselves, Isn't it!

Yes ! Definitely ! So, what are the future plans for GGMVM?
We will make our reach to more and more women and children and will diversify the vocational trainings too. Also focus for women's education will be priority.

Lastly Ma'am share some thoughts for the ones who strive for society to be a better place.

As we know the quest for equality is a long path but we must do our bit. Chup chap ghar par baithne se kuch badalne wala nahi ! You have to stand up for yourself and for the cause you believe.
There will be numerous difficulties and being a women I am well aware of them but one must stand up and face it. It will be overwhelming to know that if not for us, yet we are making a better place for future generations.