International Women’s Day celebration to demand rights for women

12 March 2023, Khori Gaon

We demand the freedom to go out, the freedom to work (Hum maang karte hai bahaar jaane ki azadi, kaam karne ki azadi)

We don’t beg for rights, we demand our rights (Hum humara haq maangte, nahi kisi se bheek maangte)

Women power has arrived; a new dawn has arrived (Mahila shakti aayi hain, nayi roshni layi hain)

These slogans capture the determination of the women of Khori Gaon, a 50-year old settlement at the Delhi-Haryana border that was demolished in the middle of a pandemic. The residents have been continuously fighting for justice.

Around a hundred people from Khori Gaon gathered to celebrate International Women’s Day, organised by Team Saathi and Dhuri, building sustainable livelihoods. Hemlata and Asha from the Azad Foundation, Shashi Gautam from the Authentic Foundation, Amit from Delhi Commission for Women and students from Jamia Millia Islamia joined the residents in discussing women’s rights, gender-based violence, and concerns about education and livelihood of women.

Khori Gaon residents spoke about the loss of families, livelihood, and the cycle of denial of work and dignity following the demolition of their homes.

The government didn’t think before taking everything from us? They ruined our children’s education. I have tried to rebuild after the demolition, but it is very difficult. I have no help, I am a single mother.

For many, the land where they built their families, made friends, celebrated festivals, and participated in the joy and sorrow of their neighbours has become a sad reminder of the abandonment and injustice by the government.

I have stopped coming to Khori Gaon because it breaks my heart to see what they’ve done. We keep going from one office to the other, meeting politicians, but it seems the government is not interested in even listening to us. The only solace I have is that the community is fighting together.

The women highlighted the pitiable state of rehabilitation and apathy towards the needs of the community, “We don’t want a  box to live in; we demand justice.

Women discussed the irony of celebrating this day – “What is the point of Women’ Day when women do not have any right to live for herself? After working outside, she is still expected to do domestic work.

Even after facing so many difficulties and struggles, their resolve to fight never diminished.

We are not weak; the government is weak

When a woman decides no one can stop her (Mahila agar thaan le toh koi usse rok nahi payenge)

Speakers also spoke about the importance of women’s education, One educated woman educates all her sisters as well, pushes the struggle forward.” They urged those who had the opportunity to go to schools and colleges to use their knowledge and skills to educate other women and help them with their documents.

Together they sang the songs –

This is Kalyug’s women, not weak, nor helpless (translated from Hindi Ab yeh kalyug ki naari hai, Na abala na bechaari hai)

That is why we chose to fight (Isliye raah sangharsh ki humne chuni)

Khori Gaon women’s conversations stem from their lived experiences. They have seen so much in their lifetime. Yet, even when faced with a storm, they have shown immense solidarity, resistance, communal harmony, optimism and hope.

– Team Saathi, Khori Gaon