The first central executive committee (CEC) meeting of the All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA) after the 11th All India conference at Bhopal was held on March 21-23, 2017 in Delhi. It was very well attended, with 79 out of 99 CEC members and 6 out of 12 special invitees from all the 22 states being present. A central secretariat meeting was held prior to the CEC on March 21, 2017. The CEC meeting was marked by lively interactions and a unified team spirit.
President Malini Bhattacharya, along with vice-presidents Sudha Sundararaman, P.K. Zainaba and Rampari chaired the different sessions.
CURRENT POLITICAL CHALLENGES
AIDWA Patron Brinda Karat, while addressing the CEC, explained the challenges before our country and before women, especially in the background of the attacks of the neo-liberal and communal RSS-BJP regime in power. The victory of the BJP in the recent assembly elections in UP and Uttarakhand, she said, was a very serious development that was made possible by communal polarisation, caste appeal, massive use of corporate money power and breaking up other parties. All progressive values and traditions are sought to be overturned. The Left has been singled out for attack, as seen in West Bengal, and now even in Kerala and Tripura. 82 percent of our MPs and 80 percent of the MLAs in UP are crorepatis. The issue of electoral reforms must be taken up widely in this background and the women’s reservation question must be linked to electoral reforms.
In such a situation, she stressed, it can never be business-as-usual. We must radically change our style of functioning. The live contact between our leaders and the masses is the most critical issue that must be addressed. She urged the CEC to reach out to the mass of women and draw larger numbers into struggles. All efforts must be bent for consolidating and expanding our organisation and increasing our political influence. Unity, collective functioning and accountability within the organisation at all levels is the need of the hour, she concluded.
The 17-page report on current developments for the period from December 15, 2016 to March 15, 2017 was sent to CEC members in advance in both Hindi and English and was placed by the general secretary Mariam Dhawale. The report, with inputs and suggestions from the states, was unanimously adopted after a rich discussion.
DISTRIBUTION OF RESPONSIBILITIES
This being the first CEC meeting after the national conference, the distribution of responsibilities was finalised. The All India Centre of AIDWA will comprise Malini Bhattacharya, Mariam Dhawale, P.K.Sreemathi, Subhashini Ali, Punyavati, Kirti Singh, Asha Sharma and Reeja Jayaprasad.
The state responsibilities of central secretariat members were decided. It was decided that secretariat members should regularly visit the states in their charge, should interact more with the leaders and activists of the state and try to attend some struggles and district programmes too.
Sub-Committees for Muslim Women’s Issues, Dalit Women’s Issues, Tribal Women’s Issues, Economic Issues, Young Women, Self-Help Groups, Health, Legal Issues, MNREGA, Media and Education, were formed. The first meetings of all these sub-committees were held during this CEC meeting itself. A brief reporting of the discussions was placed before the CEC by either the convenors or one of the sub-committee members. Responsibilities for publications, AIDWA journals Equality and Samya, Indian School of Women Studies and Development (ISWSD) and the Susheela Gopalan Memorial Trust were also finalised.
It was decided that all the sub-committees will thoroughly discuss the issues under their purview and suggest a draft plan of action to the CEC. The convenors of the sub-committees will take the initiative and prepare a note before the next CEC meeting. This will help to strengthen sectoral work. The sub-committees’ suggestions will be taken up for discussion in the next CEC meeting. All states should discuss and form the sub-committees according to the situation in their respective states, within three months.
Women and Work
A note on the issue of Women and Work was placed by Indrani Majumdar. Many of the state committees are actively involved in organising and taking up issues of women in the unorganised and informal sectors. AIDWA has decided to focus on four demands, namely, 1) Right to work, 2) Right to be recognised as workers, 3) Minimum wages and Equal wages, and 4) Social security. A broad-based campaign linking the above four demands to the concrete situation in the state is to be organised. Joint programmes with the CITU can also be held on issues related to work. AIDWA units have to consciously intervene for the implementation of MNREGA. A joint memorandum by AIDWA and CITU on the demands of working women will be submitted to the concerned authorities on April 10, Vimal Ranadive memorial day.
Coordination between AIDWA and Anganwadi Union
The ICDS is facing the threat of privatisation. The central government has not increased the allocation for ICDS in the budget. In a joint meeting of the AIDWA and the Anganwadi Union at the central level, it was decided that the struggle to ‘Save ICDS’ will be a joint campaign of both the organisations. Meetings of the main leaders of both the organisations should be held in the states to discuss about the coordination between the two. AIDWA should help in forming the Anganwadi Union where it does not have a presence and the Anganwadi Union should help in organising women beneficiaries for the formation of AIDWA. Joint conventions and campaigns at the state and district level can be organised to strengthen this coordination.
Issue of Triple Talaq
AIDWA reiterated its support to the struggle of Muslim women and organisations of Muslim women for a ban on triple talaq and polygamy. Points for discussion and our understanding on the issue of triple talaq were placed by Kirti Singh. After a good discussion on this issue, it was decided that a detailed note will be prepared incorporating the points that came up in the discussion. This note will be discussed by the state committees to have a common understanding at the All India level.
A note on the importance of cultural work and our understanding was placed by Malini Bhattacharya. The CEC decided to publish a poster exhibition on the women freedom fighters from the Left, Communist and progressive movements. This exhibition will be released on July 23, 2017 – Capt Lakshmi Sehgal’s memorial day.
The importance of using social media for publicising our campaigns and struggles was reiterated in the All India conference. The AIDWA website is being updated with the help of fraternal contacts. It was also decided to form a group to handle WhatsApp, Facebook and Gmail. This group will coordinate with the concerned activists at the central level so that our news can be circulated in the country. Every state will identify one or two activists at the state-centre level who will take the responsibility of handling WhatsApp, Facebook and Gmail. An All India workshop of these activists will be held to explain the methods and train them for the formation of this group.
Ongoing Campaigns and Struggles
It was decided to observe the following days – April 7 – World Health day, April 14 – Bharatratna Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar birth anniversary, April 19 – Ahilya Rangnekar death anniversary and May 1 – International Workers’ day.
AIDWA has been actively organising women around the issues of the public distribution system, violence against women, against communal and casteist forces. These will be taken up in the states with much more vigour and intensity.
The AIDWA membership for 2016 was finalised in this meeting. The statewise final membership figures were placed by Treasurer P. K. Sreemathi. The total membership for 2016 is 1,02,72,534. Kerala and Tripura were congratulated for their sterling performance in membership enrolment last year. The membership targets for 2017 were set and it was decided that all state committees will pay serious attention to this task and plan the membership campaign this year.
Two resolutions ‘On the UGC Admission Notification’ and ‘In Defence of the Maruti Workers’ were adopted.
It was decided to hold the next meeting of the Central Secretariat and the CEC on June 30 and July 1-2, 2017 at Bengaluru, Karnataka.