Considering their contribution to economic activities and excellence in diverse fields, including sports, people across the country take pride in the women in Manipur.
People should visit the Ima Market, the biggest women’s market in Asia and the smaller women’s markets in different districts of the State to see how women take the forefront of economic activities. Women in the state are empowered and outspoken. Their woman have strong characters and bold and two historic women’s movements have taken place in the State. They stand for the welfare of the State and for their family.
But again, women in the state are equally vulnerable owing to patriarchal norms.
One organisation which has been playing a pivotal role in empowering women of Manipur is the Women Action for Development (WAD).
Founded in 1990 by Sobita Mangsatabam, WAD became a registered organisation in 1993. Sobita holds a Master in Social Works degree and had worked in the Anganwadi centre before she founded WAD. The organisation works with the objective of improving the status of women in various aspects socially, economically, politically, health-wise etc.
Sobita Mangsatabam said she started the organisation considering the issues faced by women in her society back in 1990. She felt that women were sidelined while making a decision in the family and violence against women was mostly unreported.
She felt that the social structure somehow prevented the women from opening up until she takes up the bold step of working for the upliftment of women in society.
In the initial stage, under the banner of the campaign for Women and Child Health, WAD started a gender awareness programme. As the state reported rape and murder cases of women, the organisation rigorously organised rallies and protests under the banner of Violence against Women.
In the last 3 decades of working for the welfare of women in the state, WAD has played a pivotal role in successfully pursuing the state government to assign women inspecting officers in Police Stations, to establish a women’s commission.
The organisation has also demanded that the state government establish Manipur State Gender Policy. The organisation has been keeping updated on the violence against women by presenting a compilation of monthly fact files with evidence from daily newspaper reports to the Chief Minister and governor of the State.
WAD had conducted advocacy programmes extensively on women’s rights going to the interiors and educating women on their rights.
Their missionary movement had given courage to many women in the State making them live respectable life free from fear. WAD could not remain silent when two boys Martin and Huber were mercilessly killed in 2007 after taking ransom money. Similarly, when child trafficking cases were on a rise in the Tamenglong district in 2008-09 it stood for defending human rights beyond women’s issues.
Presently, the organisation has many cross-cutting partners across the State. Some rallies organised by WAD against atrocities towards women and children gathered around five thousand participants. Slogans printed on T-Shirts and a banner also makes a huge impact in their rallies.
The organisation also gives on-the-spot field visits to alleged suicide, death and rape cases.
They charged the government with carrying genocide when Rabina a pregnant lady succumbed to bullet injury in a firing incident which turns out to be a fake encounter.
They charged the then government for not taking the deceased lady to the hospital to save the child she was bearing at that time. WAD is known for voicing against the violation of human rights.
Their courageous step is defining the safeguard they stood for the vulnerable people in society. Moreover, the organisation gives counselling to domestic issues when a couple comes with a complaint. At times, they also save the husband from having suicidal thoughts.
In three decades of running office, they have come over several issues making them the wisdom bank of solutions and empowerment which many people sought for. WAD also works for the economic empowerment of women rape victims as a part of occupational therapy by giving them some grant money as economic support to start their small enterprises.
Sobita Mangsatabam felt that in the hill districts of Manipur due to the presence of customary law women seldom seek legal help. Besides, she pointed out that due to the non-availability of DNA testing machine in Manipur, the justice delivery system in rape cases are crippled.
They have been demanding the upgradation of the State forensic science lab for the last fifteen years and even cases of wrong imprisonment had taken place affecting the justice delivery system. She felt that due to slow justice delivery, people have less faith in the system and if swift justice is made more women will come out to complain about atrocities.
She felt that despite their reports and case findings there are many more unreported cases of violence against women in the state. (ANI)