Anarcho-environmentalism allegorised

The name Anaarkali in the present context has many meanings - Anaar symbolises the anarchism of the Bhils and kali which means flower bud in Hindi stands for their traditional environmentalism. Anaar in Hindi can also mean the fruit pomegranate which is said to be a panacea for many ills as in the Hindi idiom - "Ek anar sou bimar - One pomegranate for a hundred ill people"! - which describes a situation in which there is only one remedy available for giving to a hundred ill people and so the problem is who to give it to. Thus this name indicates that anarcho-environmentalism is the only cure for the many diseases of modern development! Similarly kali can also imply a budding anarcho-environmentalist movement. Finally according to a legend that is considered to be apocryphal by historians Anarkali was the lover of Prince Salim who was later to become the Mughal emperor Jehangir. Emperor Akbar did not approve of this romance of his son and ordered Anarkali to be bricked in alive into a wall in Lahore in Pakistan but she escaped. Allegorically this means that anarcho-environmentalists can succeed in bringing about the escape of humankind from the self-destructive love of modern development that it is enamoured of at the moment and they will do this by simultaneously supporting women's struggles for their rights.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Reproductive Health and Rights as an Electoral Issue

Election time comes round and one finds all kinds of issues making their way to the manifestoes of political parties, the campaign speeches of the leaders and the television debates but one major issue that concerns half the population of this country never gets discussed - the reproductive and sexual health and rights of women in our highly patriarchal society. So patriarchal is this society of ours that even the few women candidates who do participate in the elections do not dare to break the culture of silence surrounding women's gynaecological problems for fear of antagonising the men and losing the elections. The Khedut Mazdoor Chetna Sangath has been quietly working to get a better deal for its women members and has made reproductive health and rights of women a poll issue this time for what it is worth in this patriarchal world of ours.
A two day training workshop for the women village leaders from thirty villages was conducted in village Khatamri on March 17th 2014. The workshop was conducted by Subhadra Khaperde and Pinki Kirad as shown in the picture below -
The women were first introduced to the concepts of gender and patriarchy. Then the current understanding regarding what constitutes reproductive and sexual health and rights of women was explained to them as follows -

  1. Bodily Integrity - All women have the right to protect their bodies and have control over them. Thus women cannot be deprived of their sexual and productive abilities by men or the state and they cannot be made to use these abilities according to the latter's whims and fancies.
  2.  Personhood - Women will take their own decisions regarding reproduction and sexual behaviour and nobody can interfere in this.
  3. Equality - Women are equal to men in all respects and so the gender division of labour under which women have been given the work of exclusively tending the children and the elderly and also doing housework has to be abolished and men should also take up these responsibilities. Apart from this women's health issues should be better addressed on par with those of men.
  4. Diversity - The differences arising from difference in values, culture, religion, class, nationality and the like should be respected.
After this each participant was asked to evaluate how far she enjoyed bodily integrity, personhood and equality in her own home. These were noted down and as it turned out the combined status of the participants was very low as they were distinctly powerless compared to their men. After this the participants were asked about their reproductive health (RH) problems. They were asked if they suffered from RH problems and the thirty women cumulatively gave the responses as follows -
Sl. No.
 Problems
Frequency
Proportion (%)
1
Hazy Sight
16
53
2
Dizziness
1
3
3
Waist Pain
24
80
4
Lower Abdomen Pain
12
40
5
White Discharge
5
17
6
Itching in Vagina
1
3
7
Burning in Urination
2
7
8
Uncontrolled Urination
3
10
9
Continuous Cough
2
7
10
Prolapse of Uterus
1
3
11
Less Menstruation
7
23
12
Irregular Menstruation
7
23
13
Excessive Menstruation
5
17
14
Pain during Menstruation
7
23
The reasons for this dismal state of reproductive health were discussed. From an analysis of the responses of the women it became clear to them that the main reason was the prevalence of patriarchy which curtailed their reproductive and sexual rights. The lack of gynaecological services from the public health system also came to the fore. The Public Health system considered women to be only mothers and provided some rudimentary maternal health services though even these were severely deficient but had absolutely no provisions for gynaecological treatment. Since there was a culture of silence around reproductive health issues, these were never discussed with the men and so they did not get proper medical treatment. Alcoholism of the men as a contributor to RH problems also was pinpointed.
In the final session a strategy for tackling this sorry situation was chalked out as follows -
  1. Reproductive Health meetings would be conducted in each village to assess the situation there.
  2.  RH camps would be conducted with the help of the administration so that gynaecologists from the district hospital in Alirajpur could provide their services to the women along with other clinical testing.
  3.  Men would be sensitised to the problems being faced by the women due their alcoholism.
  4. Efforts would be made to improve the status of menstrual hygiene.
  5. The neglect of gynaecological heath of women and their conversion into homemakers and childbearers would be made into a poll issue in the current elections.

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