Pune-based Nari Samata Manch has zealously been fighting for the cause of gender issues and women’s rights
Nari Samata Manch also works with deprived communities for their development issues and rightsUpdated: Mar 03, 2019 16:17 IST
In a ubiquitous old building, second floor, a counsellor is holding a session with a couple in a room, while a group of five persons are busy planning their next workshop in another. This is the office of Nari Samata Manch located in Sadashiv peth. The organisation has been working with men and women for gender sensitisation for 32 years.
They recently presented a play recitation of ‘Safe workplaces’ written by Sandeep Mashoor, poet, writer and associated with social development field, for raising awareness about sexual harassment of women at workplace, at Deccan Gymkhana. With the play recitation attracting good response, the manch has planned five more shows at various places in Pune and other cities this month.
The manch also works with marginalised and deprived communities for their development issues and realisation of rights. Their approach is based on democracy, non-violence and scientific rational process.
“It was the first International Women’s Year in 1975 and International Women’s Decade (1976-1985) that led to increasing feminist consciousness on gender based subordination and violence,” said Preeti Karmarkar, social scientist, gender expert and chief functionary of Nari Samata Manch.
“This is one of such early collectives started working informally on the issue of gender-based violence. It all began in the early 1980s, with two cases of unnatural deaths of two upper/middle class housewives, Shaila Latkar and Manjushree Sarda, in Pune that brought the issue of domestic violence in debate. Starting with a poster exhibition called Mee Ek Manjushree in 1981, Nari Samata Manch went on to begin a movement for women’s equality. Vidya Bal, journalist, feminist activist and founder member-advisor, along with others, began the movement for women to speak against violence.
“Nari Samata Manch started Speak Out centre in 1983, where many women approached voluntarily to speak out of their problems, and some also sought solutions. So, the manch started a counselling centre and a short-stay home facility as well,” said Karmarkar.
“Initially we had a shelter for women when there were none. We stopped it in 2005 after such facility came up at many places.”
Nari Samata Manch launched awareness campaigns and workshops after observing the need to create awareness and sensitise men and women about gender-based violence.
“We have counselling and speak out services for men and women in Pune and work on gender issues in rural areas of Pune district. There is also a need to highlight the importance of Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, which has been in the talks ever since the #MeToo movement and we provide consultation for implementation of the Act,” she said, adding that a team of 20 members at different locations (Pune and villages in Mulshi, Maval and Bhor) are involved in day-to-day operation.
“We find gender useful as a category for analysis. Sensitising men is crucial in preventing violence against women, hence we started Purush Samvad Kendra in 2008, a speak out and counselling facility for men as well and many men approach us. The objective is to engage men in reducing violence against women in private and public spaces,” she said.
Nari Samata Manch is closely working on the issue of sexual harassment of women at workplace which was talked a lot with #Metoo movement and Name and Shame list of abusers on social media. “In Pune, we have Stree Mukti Andolan Sampark Samiti, a network of feminist organisations. Recently, this forum organised a workshop on #MeToo and planned strategies for advocacy for better implementation of concerned laws. With #Metoo, a positive change is seen on this front of implementation of law” said Karmarkar.
Nari Samata Manch also works in Bhor block. It started with young men. It was a process of gender sensitization to engage them in reducing violence against women. Recently they have started working with single women in these villages for their capacity building for livelihood enhancement and linking them with welfare schemes of government.
The NGO does not only work towards gender equality but has also expanded to work on issues of rural and tribal development such as education, health and water supply. They are working with tribal community like the Katkaris (in Mulshi and Maval blocks of Pune district) who are one of the particularly vulnerable tribes and very marginalised. Nari Samata Manch worked with them to get them caste certificates in 2003, which was a major achievement as first time katkaris out of Raigad district got this document.
Nari Samata Manch has also begun Khelghar, a bridging centre which helps Katkari children to assimilate into formal education system. After working on this project for ten years, there has not been a single drop out. “We want to expand this initiative and reach out to more and more children,” said Karmarkar.
Bridging gender gap to promote social development
Nari Samata Manch has ‘Speak Out and Counseling center’ for Men and Women for relationship issues. The center works during 10:30 to 5:30 on weekdays. They meet by appointment only. For appointment, one can call them on 02024494652.
Timeline of NSM
1981: The work began informally as a collective in Pune
1982: A poster Exhibition ‘Mee Ek Manjushri’ to raise awareness on domestic violence, did played at many places in and out Pune
1983: ‘Speak Out Centre’ began in pune
1986: A meeting was organised with the owners of Mangal Karyalaya in Pune on the issue of dowry prohibition
1987: A ‘Torch March’ was organised at night time on the issue of safety of women in Pune
1987: Formal incorporation of Nari Samata Manch as a Trust and a Society.
1993-2005: Nari Samata Manch run a ‘Short Stay Home’ for women in distress in Pune
1998: work began in Tribal areas of Pune district
1999: A Seminar on ‘Women and Print Media’ in Pune
2000: Conference on ‘Self Esteem’ of women in Pune
2001: A seminar on the issue of ‘Bride burning’ in Pune
2003: Conference on the issue of ‘Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace’ in Pune
2003: Gender Study in Rural Water Supply and Sanitation: A policy research for government of Maharashtra.
2001: Beginning of work with Katkari community, a Particularly Vulnerable Tribe in Maharashtra.
2003-2005: A successful legal fight to get Caste Certificates to Katkari people in Pune district.
2007-08: Katkari Khelghars initiated in Mulshi block of Pune district.
2008: ‘Purush Samvad Kendra’ began in Pune).
2011: A work to engage men in reducing violence against women began in Bhor block.
2012: A study of Health of Katkari Women in Mulshi block.
2015: Purushbhan Conference on sensitizing men for gender equality in Pune.
2016: Decentralised conferences on Purushbhan in Bhor block.
2017: A study on the practice of Female Genital Mutilation/cutting was conducted