Sumitra – India

Linked with Mahila Samakhya, Uttar Pradesh .

She is one of the 1000 women proposed for the Nobel Peace Price 2005.

Sumitra (born 1949) comes from a scheduled caste family and has received no formal education. But she is at the center of a social upheaval in her village. In 1996, braving disapproval and hostility, she set up the self-help Milori Women’s Group. The group runs women’s courts in the village, making dispute resolution quick, inexpensive, and mutually consensual. The fallout of the popularity of the women’s courts has been a drastic reduction in violence against women, and the consolidation of women’s power … It is said about her: Sumitra is reputed to have a way of getting right to the heart of the matter of any dispute, which she then judges without considerations of caste, class, gender, or community coming in the way.

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Sumitra – India

She works for the Milori Women’s Group (MLG), and for Mahila Samakhya, Uttar Pradesh.

Sumitra was born in 1949 into an indigent family of laborers. After her father died, her mother slaved to feed Sumitra and her four siblings. No one, least of all Sumitra herself, would have imagined then that she would one day lead a women’s group in a block consisting of 60 villages.

When she was 16, Sumitra married into a family of equally poor laborers. Poverty and its attendant problems remained Sumitra’s constant companions. The turning point in her life was her association with the Mahila Samakhya in 1991. Initially, Sumitra worked as a Sakhi for five years. In 1996, she formed the Milori Women’s Group.

One of the most important of this group’s activities is the women’s courts that deal with problems within families, violence against women, and disputes relating to land and family affairs. Sumitra’s method of functioning is to listen to both parties and solve the problems through mutual agreement. If either party fails to honor the court’s decision, the group calls in the cops – a surefire kick in the pants.

Today, the 60 villages resolve virtually all their disputes through the women’s courts. The lower cost and quick resolution – and the fact that decisions are arrived at through mutual consent, not legal brawling – have helped making these courts universally acceptable.

Sumitra is reputed to have a way of getting right to the heart of the matter in any dispute, which she then judges without considerations of caste, class, gender, or community coming in the way. Nor does she believe that because she is a woman, only women deserve her help. In fact, in one case where a woman’s family falsely accused her husband’s family of dowry harassment, Sumitra stepped in and resolved the issue with clinical detachment. But the group has succeeded in drastically reducing violence against women by ensuring very thorough punition for the perpetrators.

When Sumitra first joined Mahila Samakhya, the idea of women forming a group was received negatively. It was a very difficult decision for a frail, uneducated woman from a Scheduled Caste background to step out of her home and work on development issues. Sumitra also had to face some initial opposition from her in-laws. Thanks to her perseverance, though, women from all 60 villages in Nagal block today participate in the group’s activities.

People from all sections in these villages have benefited from Sumitra’s work. Now, the next generation, her daughters-in-law, have also joined her. Sumitra has found the one way to avoid the protracted trap of the Indian legal system – consensus and mutuality, and the cops as a final recourse. (1000PeaceWomen).

Sorry, Sumitra seems such a common name, that many links leading to persons named like she is. It is not possible to distinguish our peacewomen in this amount of links. More, our Sumitra’s second name (and more) should have been mentionned also. Again a women is disappearing behind a wall of conformism wanting hide her and her work, meanwhile any war lord receives any attention on the public scene.

Links:

Sumitra, in the Hindu epic Ramayana, was the second of King Dasaratha’s three wives and a queen of Ayodhyā. She was the mother of twins Lakshmana and Shatrughna. (Wikipedia);

Mahila Samakhya also named: on Dept. of School Edu and Literacy /the Background; on ashanet.org; on The Hindu; on Ministry of Human Resource Development.

9 steps to start a women’s group.

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