Mahila Samakhya Karnataka
Stories of Change

Determine your own destiny
Poornima : The trouble shooter of Bahadur Bandi

Poornima belonged to the Bahadur Bandi village in Koppal, a backward district in Karnataka. She was married at the young age of 14 and suffered in her marital home. A school dropout she completed her 7th standard exams in 2008, after a gap of 18 years. She joined a self help group in her village and carried out savings and credit facilities, but had no knowledge about women’s issues.

The Sahayogini from Mahila Samakhya Karnataka began to give information on banks, loans, women’s rights and other issues. Soon Poornima became an active member of the group and a Nari Adalat member due to her leadership qualities and courageous attitude.

The training and exposure visits to many places organised by Mahila Samakhya has helped her evolve as a strong and independent sangha women. The exposure visit to Gulbarga Nari Adalat was particularly inspirational to Poornima.

Soon many women from neighbouring villages came to Nari Adalat in Koppal seeking help. They wanted justice and support to enforce their rights as women. Most of the women who came were poor, illiterate and were from villages with little or no knowledge about their rights. They did not have the time or resources to go to courts and were fearful of going to the police station. So they found Nari Adalats an accessible forum which speaks their language and views the problem of women from their perspective.

With monthly meetings, Poornima as a member of the Nari Adalat has been able to resolve cases relating to domestic violence, child marriages, harassment and discrimination. Any cases involving criminal acts such as rape, dowry or murder are forwarded to police stations or courts.
Today, Poornima is contented woman. Just like Mahila Samakhya supported her to overcome her troubles, she is glad she can support other women with similar predicaments with assistance from Mahila Samkhya. She says Mahila Samkhya has provided a platform for her to emerge as a confident and strong woman.

From homeless tribal to GP chief

From being a homeless, landless and rightless tribal, Janakamma has gone on to fight for the rights of her people and has managed to get a residential school upto class seven for the children of Abbalati. She plans to get a hospital and a high school sanctioned for her village. When Stree Shakti Sangha activities began in her village 20 years, she started attending Sangha meetings and sometimes travelled to ‘big cities’ like Mysore and Bangalore. “I had not even seen Periyapatna, seven kilometres away from Abbalati, let alone other cities,” she says.

Janakamma learnt the ropes pretty fast, with support from Mahila Samakhya, was GP President-elect from her Gram Panchayat when elections took place in 2000. Needless to say, she swept the polls. When a residential school was sanctioned to their village it was ‘snatched’ by a nearby village. Till then, an anganwadi was being run under the tree in the village.

“We then went to Vidhana Soudha and returned with records to say that the school and hostel belonged to us. They had no option but to help us build it,” she says. Eventually, the school started functioning, four teachers and three cooks were recruited and aashraya houses were built too. She preserves a photo with the then prime minister A B Vajpayee and the meeting she attended in Parliament, where a discussion pertaining to the significance of the Panchayat Raj system was held. “It gave me a great sense of conviction. I felt whatever I was doing was indeed important,” she says.

They have now launched a campaign to get small shares of land for people of her community to lead a life with dignity. “We tasted success when we campaigned for ration cards. We waylaid the MLA, MP, ministers and even met the CM to get things done for our village. This time too, we are asking for an acre or two each for families which are dependent on labour for a livelihood,” she says. During her tenure, Janakamma got a lot of work done including laying of roads, installation of street lights and construction of houses worth over Rs 1.20 crore. Her Sangha members have driven out the arrack vendor who had a roaring business in the village. There are hardly any cases that reach the police station because people respect the Panchayat and its verdict.

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