New Delhi: Grassroots women who transcend peace & give succour to society Print E-mail
 Friday July 1 2005

Women who redefine the concept of peace

Staff Reporter
Introducing a small selection of those nominated for Peace Noble

NEW DELH: "An exploding grenade does not discriminate along religious lines,'' says Dilafrose Qazi. "Terrorism, militancy, freedom struggle, whatever you call it, kills people and leaves children orphans. I am no politician - all I do is try to make some very meagre lives better by providing them with basic education,'' says Ms. Qazi modestly, for she has single-handedly established two schools and a polytechnic for orphaned children in the troubled State.

It is women like Ms. Qazi working at "the grassroots who are the roots that support and give succour to society'', said South Asia Project Co-ordinator of "1,000 Women for the Nobel Peace Prize'', Kamla Bhasin, at a press conference here on Wednesday introducing a small selection of the 1,000 women nominated collectively for the 2005 prize.

The initiative is not limited to highlighting the millions of women who - without any regard for their personal safety - perform the daily run-of-the-mill tasks that allow society to function but also intends to redefine the very concept of peace. "To say that India is at `peace' is to ignore what surrounds us,'' said Ms. Bhasin. "How can we say we are at 'peace' when up to 60 per cent of women are subject to domestic violence?''

Upper classes
The initiative, which is the culmination of over two years' work, has brought together a diverse set of women internationally. Though designed to highlight the role of women in society, some, like the 10 nominees from Uzbekistan, cannot be named for fear of their lives.

Luckily, none of the Indian nominees suffer from such threats. Ruth Manorama highlighted other problems faced by social workers like her. "The situation facing our Uzbeki sisters highlights the precarious situation of those, especially women who do social work, because we frequently go against the very grain of societal practice.''

Ms. Manorama should know. She runs the National Federation of Dalit Women and campaigns against long-established injustices perpetrated by the upper classes in rural India. She also runs Women's Voice, an organisation "dedicated to end the disgusting practice of manual scavenging by focusing on the young boys and girls who are frequently left with no option but to do this work". Ms. Manorama, a committed social worker who has been working with the destitute and excluded since the age of 23, has a Masters degree in social work. ``It taught me a great deal about my chosen profession, but I have a family and if it was not for them then none of this would have been possible.''

Handicapped Children Parent Association (HCPA) member Krishna Kumar is another nominee for the Nobel Prize. "A few months ago someone called me and asked me for my details for this and I said yes... little did I know that this would become such a big affair,'' said Ms. Kumar disarmingly.