Working women from the slums and resettlement colonies, students, teachers, lawyers, professionals and political activists, all came together under the banners of their respective organizations, to take part in a joint protest march and rally on March 8, 2008 to mark International Women’s Day. The participating organizations were AIDWA, NFIW, JWP, Purogami Mahila Sangathan, YWCA, CWDS, NFDW, VSO, Guild of Service, Nirman Mazdoor Panchayat Sangam, Savitri Bai, Phule Mahila Sangam and Jagori.
The demonstrators met at Mandi House, where members of the Rangabhoomi Natya Samooh performed a short play showing various aspects of the oppression of women in our society and that the road to liberation lies in fighting for political power in the hands of the people. Carrying placards and raising slogans hailing the unity and spirit of struggle of women, against the increasing violence on women, against the police who regularly harass and attack women and against the state for failing in its duty to protect the rights and dignity of women, hundreds of women marched in a procession from Mandi House to Parliament in Central Delhi, culminating in a public rally.
Representatives of the participating organizations addressed the women at the rally in front of Parliament. Several women’s groups sang songs and recited poems, highlighting the day to day struggles of the working and poor women.
The representative of Purogami Mahila Sangathan pointed out that March 8 had been declared as International Women’s Day nearly a hundred years ago, by the international communist and workers movement, to mark the heroic struggle of women against capitalist exploitation, against imperialism and war. Women in India have continued to fight many heroic battles, but our rulers have reduced International Women’s Day to a charade, and are trying to fool our women by promoting various kinds of government schemes as ways to end the oppression of women. How can we ever expect a state that defends the interests of the biggest capitalist exploiters to liberate women from exploitation and oppression, she asked. She called upon the women to unite with all the exploited and oppressed in the struggle for political power in our hands, in order to create the conditions for our liberation.
The program ended with a rousing song by activists of Purogami Mahila Sangathan – “Usha ki lalima phaili hai” – the dawn is breaking; that day is not far off when the sun will shine for us!