November 26, 2013
by Amanda Froelich
While you may witness injustice on a daily basis, when was the last time you decided to interfere and help change a stranger’s situation? Either afraid of societal reprimand or confused on how to make a difference, many elect to ignore the pressing situations currently going on (homelessness, starvation, war crimes, etc…) and live in the comfort of what they feel is ‘security’. Yet, if no one does anything, waiting for someone else to step up, nothing will ever be achieved or change.
This is why a group of rural women in India are an inspiration for the entire world. Tired of seeing wives being abused by their husbands, children sold into marriage, or unjust companies ruining the lives of poor populations, they banded together with focus to create a change. Not opposed to violent methods, they’ve been labeled the Gulabi Gang.
Mainly comprised of female activists, the women vigilantes are reported to have originated from Bundelkhand, Uttar Pradesh, but are now active across North India. Stepping in to help those who may not be able to help themselves, they have earned a high level of respect and are even positively portrayed by the media. Wrapped in bright pink saris, the women are often seen protesting patriarchal culture, rigid caste division, female illiteracy, domestic violence, child labor, and dowry demands.
The Gulabi Gang was founded by Sampat Pal Devi in 2006. Since then, it has grown to over 20,000 members and includes a chapter in Paris, France. It was the devoted mother of five, former government health worker, and former child bride, Sampat, who created the group in response to the widespread domestic abuse and other violent acts against women. She saw injustice, and decided to do something about it.
Don’t be fooled by the gang’s humble origins, however; the women don’t back down and are fiercely protective of female rights. It is common for the Gulabi Gang to visit abusive husbands and beat them up with laathis (bamboo sticks) unless they stop abusing their wives. And in 2008, the gang stormed into an electricity office and forced officials to turn back on the power which had been cut in order to extract bribes.
The women don’t consider themselves a ‘typical’ gang, though. As quoted from their website, “We are not a gang in the usual sense of the term, we are a gang for justice.”
Their fearlessness has touched the lives of many and has even inspired media makers. Gulabi Gang is the subject of a 2010 movie Pink Saris by Kim Longinotto, as well as the focus of the 2012 documentary Gulabi Gang by Nishtha Jain.
Today the group continues to ensure that proper grain distribution is given to people below the poverty line, disbursement of pension to elderly widows who have no birth certificate to prove their age is given, and that women and children are protected from abuse.
Because they are protectors of both women and men, they serve as an excellent example for the modern world. If one wants to make a difference, all they have to do is commit to an idea and be the change they wish to see.
What would happen if you decided to stand up for something you believed in today? Whose life could you positively impact by stepping in where they can’t?