“I could not imagine living as a daughter-in-law, confined to home. However, I had no other role model. I knew what I did not want, but every time my mother asked me what I wanted, I drew a blank.”
Abha Bhaiya (born 1948) sees herself as a product of the last wave of the feminist movement of the 1970s. Among the first women in India to take up the issue of single women, putting them on the agenda of the feminist movement, Abha’s work is also aimed at assisting rural women to emerge as independent leaders, and creating linkages between work at the grassroots level and the international feminist movement.
Abha Bhaiya had to rebel against her middle-class, conservative Marwari family to carve out an identity for herself. As she grappled with the politics of poverty and powerlessness, Abha started looking at the question of women’s oppression and subordination. In 1984, she set up Jagori, a women’s resource, documentation, and communications center. Abha is equally concerned with the rights of marginalized communities, especially Dalit and tribal women. Her work is aimed at assisting rural women emerge as independent leaders: she is a founder-member of Nishtha, a Himachal Pradesh-based NGO that works on rural health; she was a member of Frea-India, a documentation-research center in Mumbai; she is a member of Ankur, an educational center for women and children in New Delhi; she is a founder-member of Olakh, a women’s resource center in Gujarat; she is also a founder-member of the Mahila Samakhya’s (women’s collective) national resource group; and she was on the executive committee of the Uttar Pradesh wing of the Mahila Samakhya. One of the unique features of Abha’s work has been the creation of linkages between community and international arenas. She has used the spaces at various levels to design and evolve a strategy for the convergence of many diverse women’s groups, exposing the limitations of mainstream discourse. In the process, she has also created a fresh linguistic and spatial idiom for feminist expression. Abha has worked out a striking synthesis between the movement on the ideological plane and the involvement of women in the movement at the practical level.
Jagori Olakh Ankur
South Asia | India