Posted by Zuha Moideen
A recurring word in the debates surrounding Vanitha Mathil or Women’s Wall, an organised demonstration of women within Kerala on 1st of January 2019, is ‘Navodhanam’. It refers to the spirit of renaissance or reform. The idea is that Kerala in its outlook is supportive of renaissance values of equality and liberation, and that recent divisive political manoeuvrings manipulate and tarnish this spirit.
The Women’s Wall, under the patronage of the government of Kerala stands against such politics. The notion of a women’s protest originated in the context of the actions of RSS-BJP members in the Sabarimala issue. The Chief Minister of Kerala, Pinarayi Vijayan, has elucidated the main motive of the protest as gender equality and move against efforts to create a communal divide in Kerala.
The march was an overwhelming success with the participation of over 50 lakh women from all walks of life.
The demonstration consisted of a 620 km long wall of women stretching from Kasaragod to Thiruvananthapuram. The march was an overwhelming success with the participation of over 50 lakh women from all walks of life. Anil Kumar, a State Committee member of KSEB Workers’ Association (CITU), called it “a counter movement of women” opposing the mobilisation of women against the implementation of the Supreme Court of India’s verdict on the entry of women of all ages to Sabarimala. Many feminist activists also voiced criticism against the Women’s Wall which you can read about in detail here.
He says, “It’s not an issue of believers vs non-believers as the contradictory stances of the BJP at the centre and the state level show.” It is a reaction against the utilisation of a women’s issue to propagate communal tensions for political benefit.
Many protesters came solely to mark their support for the state government and various contingent organisations. “I came to be a part of a huge endeavour supported by Kudumbashree,” quipped Mini who works as a household help. Mini C. V., a KSEB employee, also joined to lend strength to the demonstration supported by the Kerala government.
Jabeen Kunhumoideen, another KSEB employee, asserts “The wall is a show of strength. We are disgusted by actions of protestors in Sabarimala who view creating an atmosphere of fear of bodily harm to ordinary citizens. We want to show that we are also powerful, that we need not live in fear.”
The fact is that such a mass scale of mobilisation of women cannot be ignored, their issues cannot be trivialised.
Mrs Ravi agrees and says, “Earlier women were afraid to leave their homes or to handle cash. After joining Kudumbashree I have realised that I too am capable and need not be afraid”. She does not see menstruating as defiling or women as unclean.
Responding to certain prominent personalities like Sarah Joseph desisting to join the movement due to the accusations against P.K. Shashi, CITU State Committee member, A. Siyavudeen says, “That is a different matter, it does not invalidate the provision of a forum for women to express their discontent.”
The fact is that such a mass scale of mobilisation of women cannot be ignored, their issues cannot be trivialised. Women’s Wall have brought to light the vast history of Kerala’s reformist movements like never before and conversations are occurring in the language of struggle for social justice and women’s liberation. Women of Kerala have publicly and evidently expressed their discontent with divisive politics.
Zuha Moideen is a postgraduate in English Studies from IIT Madras. A feminist and a lover of the fantastical.
Photography Credits: Azhar Moideen