Single women unite for a life

Published: October 7, 2009 - 13:59 Updated: October 7, 2009 - 16:50

<p>The National Forum for Single Women's Right to establish the identity of the single women <br />Sumiran Preet Kaur Delhi Hardnews</p>
<p><br />Radha Raghwal got married in 1994 at the age of 17. But very soon, all her dreams were shattered when she and her baby were thrown out of the house. She went back to Kangra in Himachal Pradesh where her parents lived. It's been 14 years since then. But she is yet to get a divorce from her husband as he does not appear in the court.</p>
<p>Sudha Jha of Bihar was widowed at an early age. She had to bring up her four children all by herself. She was confined to her house and was not allowed to go out or meet anybody.</p>
<p>Nirmal Chandel from Himachal Pradesh had a similar tragedy. She was widowed at 22. "I had to wear white clothes. I was debarred from eating non-vegetarian food. I lost my identity and existence after my husband's death," she recalled.</p>
<p>What is common between the three women, apart from the fact that they became single, is that now they are associated with the Forum for Single Women's Rights (<em>Ekal Adhikar Yojna</em>) in their respective states. They are trying to give meaning to their lives and also to lives of those who are going through the same travails. </p>
<p>They along with 160 other single women have come to Delhi from different parts of the country to form the National Forum for Single Women's Right. They are here from October 5 to 8 to discuss the objectives, activities, structure, membership and leadership for the forum. This forum will represent the voices of these single women and help the nation and the government realise their problems, learnt <em>Hardnews.</em></p>
<p>According to the 2001 census, nearly 7.4 per cent of women are "single". This includes widows and divorced or separated women but not women who have never been married. This number will further increase when the "customarily" separated women and those whose husbands have gone missing is added.</p>
<p>For single women in India, customs and traditions take away their right to live a life of dignity and respect after they become single. Worse, they become economically weak. Government schemes and policies generally ignore the separated and divorced women leaving them to fend for themselves. </p>
<p>In the face of all these challenges and to ensure justice, the single women of Rajasthan got organised and united in 1999. In 2000, Dr Ginny Srivastava, a social activist from Rajasthan, started <em>Ekal Nari Shakti Sangathan</em> (ENSS) in the state. </p>
<p>The base of the struggle widened when single women from Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Bihar formed similar organisations. Now they have a nationwide network of around 50,000 single women across the nation. This includes widows, separated, divorced, unmarried mothers, women whose husbands are missing and also single women living with HIV/ AIDS. </p>
<p>The forum not only voices the economic, social rights of women but also helps them get employed.</p>
<p>According to Srivastava, the journey has not been so easy. "It was difficult for many women to even come out of their houses to attend the ENSS meetings. Many had to lie to their family and change clothes to come to the meetings. But if you have the determination to change your life, you will succeed," she beamed. </p>
<p>A big problem with these women is that they do not get financial support. "Moreover, they are not accepted anywhere after they become single, even by their own family. It is not their fault that they are single," Srivastava pointed out. </p>
<p>So, the forum wants the government to issue ration cards to poor single women, provide them free of cost medical aid and also help them financially, especially those who have to look after their children all by themselves.</p>
<p>One of the objectives of the forum is to establish the identity of the single women at the national and the international level and represent their issues. They aim to develop leadership of single women at the national level and bring about a change in the societal and political perspective regarding single women.</p>
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The National Forum for Single Women’s Right to establish the identity of the single women
Sumiran Preet Kaur Delhi Hardnews

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