The march is being organised by the Ekal Mahila Shakti Sangathan of the Lopchu-Peshok area with support from women empowerment bodies such as Sappho for Equality (Kolkata), AJWS (American Jewish Welfare Society) and Hill Social Welfare Society (Kalimpong).
The Ekal Mahila Shakti Sangathan comprises widowed, unmarried and divorced women of the Lopchu-Peshok area, who are all clubbed together as single women.
Inspired by the National Single Women’s Movement which first started in Rajasthan, it works towards mobilising and organising single women so as to lay resonance on their demands and collectively work towards providing them a better life. The Sangathan also strives towards removing the stigma that society attaches to such women.
As Dr. Paromita Chakraborty, principal investigator in this case and professor at Jadavpur University puts it, “They are single, but not alone.”
According to Shubhagata Ghosh, the founder of Sapho For Equality, this body works towards the upliftment of sexually marginalised women by mobilising them and enabling them to demand for their rights on an individual basis. Sappho for Equality has identified Darjeeling and Kolkata as the two areas with the highest concentration of single women in West Bengal.
However, so far, the response from Darjeeling has been more gratifying, with local women gradually assuming leadership in order to voice their demands.
Two such women, Harka Rai and Anu Chettri from the Lopchu Peshok area have spoken about the presence of several such single women in their area. With their children married, not only do they lack people to depend upon, but are also deprived of pensions, BPL and ration cards and other government benefits.
According to its members, the Ekal Nari Shakti Sangathan has empowered them by providing them a pulpit from which they can be noticed after years of being overlooked by society and being relegated to its hind quarters. In light of such issues, tomorrow’s march will demand access for single women to various government schemes and also spread awareness about their maltreatment. It calls upon not only single women but every individual who empathises with them.