Sikranti Devi is a rural woman's role model today. A widow since eight years, and partially blinded, Sikranti has taken life in stride as the head of her household. By becoming a farmer in Jamdih Bardanr, in rural Jharkhand, she earns her livelihood and educates her five children. But her victory came after eight years of struggle for her government sponsored widow pension under the Indira Gandhi National Widow Pension Scheme. Under the pension, the Government of India provides monthly social pension to widows in form of Rs. 400. Sikranti had applied for the pension in hope that it would help in getting food and education for her children. "I submitted the widow pension form twice, but both the times, the village head 'misplaced' it," Sikranti tells Shanti Baraik, a fellow resident of the village as well as a community correspondent with Video Volunteers.
A widow pension of Rs. 400 is by no means sufficient to help an individual live decently (we spend more on our mobile 3g bills.) But the absence of even this minute support aggravates a woman's problem multiple times. Lack of financial support means that they have to borrow money or work as cheap labour, for their daily sustenance. If and when pension comes, it gets used up in repaying the debts, and the cycle continues.
After her husband died, Sikranti, like most Indian widows in rural India faced destitution and helplessness when her husband's family abandoned her and her five young children. With limited education and partial blindness, finding a livelihood was nearly impossible for Sikranti. As the widow pension also failed to reach her, Sikranti requested her young children to leave studies and work, to sustain the family.
Frustrated by the negligence and plain apathy of the village head and government authorities, Sikranti approached Shanti to help her resolve the issue. As a part of Video Volunteers, Shanti has been instrumental in bringing many community level changes through community journalism and advocacy.
Shanti found out that just like Sikranti, there were nine more widows who were denied widow pension and were struggling to make ends meet. She made a collective video report of their testimonies of daily struggle and inefficiency of government officials. She also educated the community and widows about their rights and organised a community screening for the entire village.
Shanti Devi then took the 10 women and showed the video to the Circle Officer, who resolved the issue and started the widow pension for all the ten applicants including Sikranti who received Rs. 3000 at a collective amount of overdue pensions of the past. "I have bought books for my children and food. I have also put some of the money into farming, so that I can sustain my family with occupation," tells a relieved and confindent Sikranti, who now tills 1.5 acres of land in rural Jharkhand.
Shanti would like to thank the Circle Officer for extending his support to the widows of Jamdih Bardanr.
This video was made by a Video Volunteers Community Correspondent Shanti Baraik.
Community Correspondents come from marginalised communities in India and produce videos on unreported stories. These stories are ’news by those who live it.’ They give the hyperlocal context to global human rights and development challenges.
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