A Mahila Sabha is a meeting of women of a village, which takes place before the Gram Sabha, to address issues related to women. Kalpana Mali, one of our media activist (Madhyam Sakhi) based in the Dhule region of North Maharashtra realized the importance of organizing women and empowering them. For her Mahila Gram Sabha is an important space for women to realize and meet often. As part of her work in 15 villages, organizing women’s meeting has been one of her passion. Organising women and inviting them for a meeting is not an easy task given the patriarchal culture prevalent in the villages of North Maharashtra. She has spent many hours visiting women’s homes and convincing them to attend the Mahila Sabha. Her conviction is positive and it connects. Women realize the strength of their collective gathering and that too for their own cause. Due to her efforts, she has managed to hold meetings in each of the 5 different villages of Dhule taluka.
Ratanpura village is supposed to be an open defecation free village. But in reality, the village still does not have a proper toilet system. Toilet exists only on paper! There are open gutters which are the reason for many health related problems that abound in the village. Kalpana Mali felt the need to talk about the issue in the Mahila Sabha for the first time where all the women came together. Soon the women were openly discussing their plight about defecating in the open and issues related to it. As it was the first platform that gave a voice to the women, each one of them spoke freely about her problems. Women felt a purpose. Their spirits were high. They felt they had an important cause which would benefit the entire village. Determined, they noted the problem in the proceedings which Kalpana explained to them. Later, the women went to submit it to the Sarpanch and Gramsevak for further actions.
This issue was highlighted by the Sarpanch and held discussions about the same with the whole village during the Gram Sabha. The resolution of the issue will not be easy as the Village is recorded as open defecation free! However, Kalpana and the women have taken the first step in demanding accountability. Their initiative and courage have made the officials alert. The days of fooling the people will soon be over replaced by quality service, and active citizens engaged in improving quality of their life.