Lok Manch helps widows to defend their rights

Ruzli is a widow, a beneficiary of Lok Manch project, and lives in the village of Samalvat in the State of Gujarat. She belongs to the tribal group of Rathwa, a name that derives from an ancient Dravidian term “Rathbistar”, which means inhabitants of the forests and the hills.

A widow for the last 7 years, her husband died of a sickle cell anemia and she was left alone to take care of her 3 children. She lived in a joint family, as is usual in Indian tradition, but after her husband’s death, her in-laws separated her from the family. The death of a man in a family is a big loss, more mouths to feed with less income. Ruzli found herself alone with her small children and life was hard. She wanted a better life for her children, she wanted them to be educated, but because of her uncertain economic status, she struggled.

Ruzli started working as day laborer in the fields and has been able to raise her children. She is an illiterate and uneducated woman, denied her rights and did not know that she was entitled to a widow’s social pension. For several years she lived without any support, she fought alone.

She says that every month a group of people from Kawa used to come to her village to conduct sessions on Right to Food and different other Government Schemes, but she never attended the sessions. “I am widow, why I should go, what will the villagers think of me?”

One day the session took place in the house next to hers, she was standing at the door and was invited to participate. After the session she talked to the community leaders of Lok Manch. She reflects, “They opened my eyes, because they made me aware of the different Government Schemes. I was not aware of my rights, I did not know I was entitled for the Widow Pension Scheme, I did not know anything about what the community leaders explained to me”.

Thanks to the help of Lok Manch she applied for the widow’s social pension scheme and for the food rations card AAY (Antyodaya Anna Yojana), which falls within the Food Security Act of Indian Government. After few months her request was granted, and she started getting widow pension as well as AAY food ration, which allow her to live a dignified life.

She says, “I feel very happy and grateful to all those who have shown the way and helped me to get my rights”.