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Rami Devi. Activist and coordinator women empowerment groups.
streaming video — 06:40
My name is Rami Devi. My age is around 35 years. I don’t profess a specific religion. Praying all day wouldn’t bring any food to my stomach. I don’t believe in blind fate anymore. One cannot grasp god and force him to put food in your mouth. So for me there is first work and than god.
I know that the last years I realised a lot of changes for myself. Earlier I would not have been able to sit here on this bed, facing the camera. I would have been sitting on the floor with my dupatta over my face. But today I can sit like this, facing you and speak out my mind freely.
I work for the Barefoot College with the women’s group of Tiloniya. I am also the field coordinator for the surrounding villages. I work with the village women and I try to share my thoughts with them about violence on women. Our group is completely independent. We take our own decisions and fight injustice.
The group in Tiloniya village has 68 members. In the fieldcenter there is a weekly meeting.
A second meeting on higher level is held monthly at Barefoot College. Two women from every village group gather there in a larger group. Around 120 women discuss important problems during these monthly meetings. These problems are related to labour, water- and energy distribution or to employment. The individual domestic problems are resolved on village level.
We try to spread awareness about women related subjects and make people think about it
very sincerely. If possible we would like to take a step ahead and set up women groups in as many villages as possible. We help the women think about village politics and even help them to get into the local council.
Last month a 13 year old girl was roughly raped during a festival. Immediately the ladies closed down the whole festival and went to court. The officials asked us why we had had come there. After a lot of questionning and a long time waiting, a report was made.
When the judge finally took a decision he decided it was not a rape. We women realised that the officials supported the boy and that they wouln’t do anything to help us.
Than we came together and decided to fight it our own way. We talked it out, got hold of the boy and made him sit on the donkey. In front of the whole village we blackened his face and put a guirland of shoes around his neck to show that this boy is not a good person. That’s our way to fight injustice.
The court structure is an hierarchic one. Only the judge takes the final decision.
In the women’s groups all members collaborate on the same level. We discuss the issue in depth. We look at it from all possible angles. We investigate towards friends and family from as well the victim as the offender, we search for proofs and we decide on the judgement together.
The government cannot do anything against our actions. We don’t consider it as taking the law in our hands. In India we have the freedom of speech and we can freely talk about what is disturbing us. We punish only the people who actually deserve it. We are not fighting against men, we fight against crime. That’s our motto.
Court cannot prevent us from acting because alltogether we are a huge number of women and they cannot keep our mouths shut!
Compared to some years ago women became very brave now. Ten years ago they still kept their mouth shut about private issues but now they come to us for help if there’s a problem. They are not scared to talk anymore.
At the very beginning of the groups our men protested against our actions because in a lot of these villages you still have the purdah-system and women are not supposed to leave the house. The men thought we were unnecessarily creating all those issues but when they understood our main motto they agreed to our actions.
They realised we are only fighting injustice and not men per definition. Now they are even proud of us and they understand that we women can get things done where the government lacks in action.