12th March| Dhangadhra,Surendranagar District, Gujarat | Bipin Solanki
The year 2015 started on a most inspiring note for women in the Armed Forces of India. For the first time ever the Republic Day Parade, held on the 26th of January each year, saw an all women contingent march through Rashtrapati Bhavan. The sight of women from the army, navy and air force marching chin up, resplendent in their livery was a moment of pride even for those otherwise cynical of the parade in general. Had Nari Shakti finally arrived in India?
In a far off corner in Gujarat, the story is very different. The 20 odd women enrolled in the Home Guards of Dhangadhra are continuously reminded of their sex and made to feel inferior every single day they report for duty. “To give you a night shift, as a woman is a burden for us. If anything happens to you, we will be held responsible,” are the words that Falguni gets to hear often. Others in the force who are Dalit face a double dose of discrimination, the women report. They have been at loggerheads with their superiors trying to get assigned duties.
The Home Guards function as a supplementary to the Police force in India and help in the maintenance of law and order, internal security and help out during emergency situations, including natural disasters. In Gujarat for every shift that they work, Home Guards get an allowance of INR200. In addition, they get paid INR 40 for every parade and mess allowances of INR 100 a day. Added up, the women could potentially earn INR 4000 a month but instead are short changed as they only get to go for parades and never any shifts outside the barracks. Their male counterparts get at least 23 days of duty per month.
Reports from other parts of the country suggest that life as a female Home Guard is not easy. Things like the lack of toilets while on duty make it extremely difficult for women to do their job. The women tend to brave the situation and carry on with the work regardless. Meena for instance, who faces further discrimination for being a Dalit, worked hard and was promoted to a job in Ahmedabad where sheis a traffic policewoman.
To work in any of the forces carries its fair share of risks for both women and men. Surely, the women who have chosen to enlist in the Home Guards are aware of this risk, just as their male counterparts. For men to ‘protect’ them by not letting them work reiterates a mind set that we hear often in India—keep the women at home to keep them safe.
This video helped build the confidence of the 20 women working in Dhangadhra.
“They tell me that they have started getting at least three or four days of duty every month. This is not equal to the men but is at least a start. The women reported that after senior officials saw me making this video things have changed a bit over there. The blatant caste-based discrimination has stopped, or at least the official doesn’t openly state what he thinks of people from the ‘lower-caste’,” reports BipinSolanki in a conversation earlier today.
We need you now to make sure that the discrimination stops completely in Dhangadhra.
Call to Action: Call the Deputy Superintendent of Police on +91 9909913989 and ask him to give men and women equal number of shifts. Remind him that there is no place for discrimination at a work place in this country.