SAHR WARU: Women’s Action and Resource Unit, was conceived in 1999 and registered in May 2002.
1999 - 2002
The Organization grew with work and involvements with local, state, National and International groups advocating women’s issues from the local to global and global to local context. As one of the members of the NGO Advisory Committee that was formed to review the status of women in the country, the group then represented before the 4th World Conference on Women, held in Beijing in 1995. Post the Conference the Advisory committee then formed the National Alliance of Women that does much of the National and International advocacy on status of Women, till today.
Going Local to Global: SAHR WARU’s participation in Beijing – Fourth World Conference on Women,1995
Women’s Watch Committee’s
In the Period 1999-2002 the Organization had formed several Hindu-Muslim Women’s Watch Committees that in many locations worked together or within their respective communities to mitigate Violence against Women and render Gender Justice to women.
Muslim Women Speak on Gender Justice and Minority Rights
Need For the Public Hearing: Muslim Women’s Hearing was held at a time when the Organization having worked on so many different cases of Violence Against Women, and gained deep insights into the trials and tribulations of faced by the marginalized communities, especially the Women on social, political and economic fronts, besides that of being a woman.
The Testimonies were on issues that ranged from Divorce and Maintenance, Rights to Child Custody, Domestic Violence, Child Sexual Abuse, Widow’s Rights to Property to being Victims of Communal Violence.
- There is a need to protect the Rights of Minorities to live in Peace and Security in a Democratic Nation.
- To increase representation in positions and policies that would give the needed emphasis in the direction of their betterment.
- Quick redressel and indictments of crimes against minorities.
Candle light vigil – Rallies
End of Silence – Dignity of Life for Dalit Women, Convention on Dalit Women’s Human Rights
Need for the Consultation: SAHR WARU had been working with Hindu Dalit (Scheduled Castes of India) Women on cases related to Violence against Women but there was a need to understand Social customs, traditions in Dalit communities that were affecting Dalit Women’s responses in changing the situation. Although the Dalits are governed by the Hindu Personal Law, Dalit Women continue to refer back to their own sub castes customary practices in cases of settling matrimonial conflicts.
Objectives of the Convention:
- To understand and provide space for the discussion of social customs and traditions of Dalit communities that affect women.
- Addressing the issues of Dalit women at work place.
The recommendations that emerged from the Consultation was as follows:
- Initiate and encourage participation of Women in ‘Nati Panchayats’ (Village courts)
- Economic empowerment of Dalit women
- Need for formation of Dalit women’s work forums and work trade unions,
- To enhance capacities, knowledge and information of Dalit women
- Linking Dalit movement with other movements in the country.
State Level Convention on CEDAW
A State Level convention aiming at reviewing the Status of Women in Gujarat, and for sharing recommendations of the CEDAW UN Treaty with participants belonging to NGOs in Gujarat and the women from grassroots. The Convention was held in the year 2001.
Human Rights Campaign
A five day campaign was held by the Organization during the Gender Activism period in December 2001, we covered 13 talukas in Ahmedabad District. The campaigns involved Street plays, songs, groups discussions, exhibitions, competitions with school children.
2002 – 2005
Despite the efforts that strengthened existing or created new islands of Hindu Muslim amity; SAHR WARU and like minded organizations were well aware of the prevalence of Religious Intolerance and Xenophobia in Gujarat. Gujarat witnessed the worst of targeted anti Muslim carnage that spread like wild fire across most of the Legislative Constituencies of the state in 2002. The violence affected 21 out of 26 districts of the State of Gujarat and rendered more than 100,000 families displaced and around 3000 dead.
This watershed of crimes against humanity born out of politics of hate where the state became part of the genocide by supporting the crime and criminal forces belonging to right wing fundamentalists. This was a turning point for SAHR WARU as it was for many other Social Action and Human Rights groups with a conscience.
It was the time to stand up and be counted.
WORK AT THE LOCAL COMMUNITY LEVEL
Mahila Nyay Panchayats / Women’s Watch Committees:
SAHR WARU is working on addressing issues of Violence Against Women, through Mahila Nyay Panchayats or Women’s Watch Committee’s that are formed at the local level by involving women leaders from different sub localities in that area.
Social Reconciliation and Peace:
SAHR WARU organizes different programs and events for Social Reconciliation where members from both the communities come together for a common occasion to celebrate national events like Republic Day on 26th January, Independence Day on 15th of August, 8th March for International Human Rights Day, 30th November for South Asian Women’s Day for Peace, and 10th December for the Human Rights Day. All events are celebrated with zeal and bonding and they always look forward to meeting each other on these days.
Youth Empowerment, and encouraging friendship and bonding between Hindu and Muslim young girls
For the youth SAHR WARU’s members hold weekly activities that include discussions about social problems and problems of youth, career counseling, information of health and reproductive health. We also held skill giving activities like tailoring, and embroidery.
Educational Scholarships: During the past three years we have given educational scholarships to students from the minority and marginalized sections.
Staff Development Workshops:
Workshops held with the team members for review and planning for the year also involve women leaders and youth for their support in the field programs. While mid term reviews are held in the main office on a monthly basis, we had held one workshop in Udaipur in 2008, this resulted in women leaders and youth leaders taking more stakes in the work of the Organization and making the organizational members more responsible.
Muslim Women’s Consultations:
In the year 2007 we held Muslim women’s consultations on “Socio-economic and political concerns of the Muslim women and Community in the present context”, these consultations were held in South, East and Central regions and culminated into an Informal network through the National Reflection Retreat held on “Women and Islam”.
There were 3 regional consultations – Mahabalipuram in Chennai, for the southern States of India, Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh for the central states of India, and Kolkata in West Bengal for the Eastern States of India.
National Reflection Retreat (“Women and Islam”):
A Dialogue between Hindu and Muslim Leaders:
In the year 2008, we held a dialogue between Hindu and Muslim leaders who came and spoke their concerns and facts on Conflict and Peace. The dialogue was one in a kind where the leaders were social workers, scholars, professors, and lawyers coming from different parts of the country. It was interesting to note how they perceived conflict and how peace can be achieved.
Women and Governance:
Through NAWO’s Women’s Parliament process we have trained women leaders representing 12 districts of Gujarat in Women and Governance, who then participated in the 1st Women’s Parliament held by NAWO in November, 2009. The network is being taken forward as a Peace network to advocate Pluralism in a state that is conflict prone and communally sensitive especially against minorities.
A People’s Gathering on Social and Humanitarian Concerns
Presently, SAHR WARU is working in all levels – local, state, and national levels for Women’s Rights and Human Rights, and for advocating Peace and Pluralism.
“SAHR WARU continues to work with women of socially excluded communities… to strengthen and empower them for equality and gender justice. Working for social justice and human rights of marginalized communities, it dreams of a plural and multicultural society free of caste and religion-based discrimination. We strive to think globally and act locally in all our endeavors in striving for a New Dawn for Women. We strive for Truth and Justice in a troubled world”.