From taking centre stage to handling backstage responsibilities, managing crowd and collecting donations, women farmers took over the reins of the ongoing agitation against farm laws at multiple Delhi border points on Monday as they marked the day as "Women Farmers' Day".
A large number of women from various states reached the sites of protest against the Centre's three farm laws that has been going on for over 50 days now.
At the Singhu border, the epicentre of the agitation, many women farmers were seen regulating entry at select locations, coordinating among volunteers and ensuring that the day's proceedings went seamlessly — jobs that were taken care of by men till now.
"The stage at the Singhu border was managed by only women and all the speakers were women. In different places across India, women farmers organised rallies, dharnas, and meetings to mark the day," said Kavitha Kuruganti of the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC).
A woman protester at Singhu said, "I am responsible for coordinating among volunteers.... I am also helping out the elderly."
Several women's organisations across Delhi extended their support to the call of the Samyukt Kisan Morcha, a joint forum of farmer unions spearheading the agitation, to observe "Mahila Kisan Diwas" (Women Farmers' Day) on Monday.
"The understanding of all participating women's organisations is that the three farm laws will further worsen the situation for the average woman whose life is already severely impacted by a crumbling public distribution system, skyrocketing prices of essential commodities, rising indebtedness, dispossession in the case of women from poor peasant families, loss of wages with discontinuation of employment under MNREGA, making it impossible to make both ends meet," the All India Democratic Women's Association said in a statement.
Kisan Ekta Morcha, the official Twitter account for the ongoing agitation, on Monday morning called on social media users to use the hashtag #WomenFarmersAgainstFarmLaws to mark the day, while sharing facts about women's contribution to the farmers' movement.
Thousands of farmers, mainly from Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh, have been protesting at various border points of Delhi for over 50 days now demanding repeal of the three laws - the Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, and the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act.
Enacted in September 2020, the central government has presented these laws as major farm reforms aimed at increasing farmers' income, but the protesting farmers have raised concerns that these legislations would weaken the minimum support price (MSP) and "mandi" (wholesale market) systems and leave them at the mercy of big corporations.
The government has maintained that these apprehensions are misplaced and ruled out a repeal of the laws.