It's Not Only Men Who Forced Govt To Repeal Farm Laws, There Were Women Too, Lots Of Them!
On March 8, 2021, nearly 50,000 women farmers joined their male counterparts at Singhu and Tikri on the borders of Delhi to celebrate their long-standing participation in the largest farmers' protests ever witnessed in the country.
From managing the stage, food, and security to sharing tales of their struggles, and significance of taking part in the farmers' agitation, thousands of women farmers, students, and activists took over key roles at protest sites.
The protests, which garnered huge community support from India and abroad, included and mobilised women across the country.
Farmers, both men and women, and children, braved the nail-biting cold and skin-burning summers and spent days and nights in makeshift shelters across multiple protest sites encircling New Delhi.
Women farmers voicing concerns
Even though the key demand of women farmers remained the same - repeal contentious farm laws and ensure MSPs - several other issues about women’s working conditions in the field were also raised.
In this way, farmers’ protests became modern-day protest sites and set an example for having spaces of resistance and power but also of gender equity and empowerment.
The mobilisation of women from the green belt of the country played a crucial role in making headway against soon-to-be repealed farms laws.
Mostly led by Sikh farmers from Punjab, the protest space reflects the Sikh ethos of langar (free meals), sewa (service), and charhdi kala (high spirits).
Most women hailed from Haryana and Punjab, the states characterised by deeply entrenched feudal, patriarchal structures that place significant, deliberate, and inadvertent constraints on women.
Additionally, Punjab and Haryana continue to be counted among the country’s worst-performing states in terms of female-to-male sex ratios.
Against this backdrop, it’s remarkable that thousands of women exercised their agency, by not only participating but also leading the protests.
Women farmers going towards stage at Pakora Chowk, Bahadurgarh. Thousands of women farmers arrived from Punjab to participate in protest again new farm laws on the occasion of international women’s day. pic.twitter.com/dXAw7wNtue— Sandeep Singh (@PunYaab) March 8, 2021
While men were protesting at border sites, women were managing homes and farmlands back home. These women are also ensuring there is a continuous supply of rations, blankets, and other essentials needed at the protest sites.
Without the logistical support and an assurance that their farmlands are being tended to, men could not have camped at borders for more than a month let alone a year.
When asked to persuade elderly people and women to leave the protests, women farmers in response—mostly from the rural states of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh—scrambled onto stages, took hold of microphones and roared back a unanimous “No!”— Navneet (@NavJammu) March 8, 2021
Salute! ✊🏼#WeSaluteWomenFarmers pic.twitter.com/bCX641YnFu
A large number of women have stayed put at the Tikri border in Haryana near West Delhi.
Away from their homes, women were determined to accomplish their aim of getting the “black laws” scrapped, they said.
“We are not bothered about the cold weather conditions,” said 40-year-old Paramjit Kaur who came all the way from Bathinda to participate in the agitation.
"We tell our fellow protesters that it's going to be a long battle and they should stay put," she said.
Folk songs replace slogans
At protest sites, slogans were replaced with folk songs with the arrival of women.
They also carried out chores such as cooking food and washing clothes. Temporary kitchens were also set up to cook food for the farmers.
Women are a big part of the agriculture community but are almost never recognised. In fact, they work more than men. The protests put women in the forefront, leading with their demands for equal rights. For them, it was just another occasion to showcase and highlight the contribution of women farmers both in agriculture in India as well as to this movement.
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