- KUSUM SONAVNE -
Village Nanthgaw, Taluka Mawal
My journey with V.C.D.M began in the 1980s. After the first meeting held in my village by V.C.D.M, we decided to create a kindergarten, to address the lack of education of local children. At that time, I knew a little writing, enough to teach in kindergarten, I then became a teacher in kindergarten. I had no courage, or so little, but I was surrounded by the V.C.D.M animators as well as Guy and Hema, that made the difference.
In parallel, with other animators we decided to initiate a demonstration for the right to water supply, a theme so dear to women. It was a success, I managed to mobilize 50 women from my village to join this event. My courage grew, I discovered new “powers”. The meetings with the animators enchanted me, I was at ease, and I used to sing freely in the meetings. These songs expressed my emotions, my concerns, my convictions.
All this happiness was darkened for a time by a drama of which I was a victim. As I taught the children of my village near the temple, villagers from different caste, threw stones and tore my clothes because I was untouchable sitting next to a sacred place. I was clueless, what to do? Where to go ? I went to meet the V.C.D.M animators, they supported me morally, and together we went to the police and lobbied the police for my complaint to be accepted. It was a great success, at that time it was almost impossible for justice to be done to a woman of my background in the rural area. But, I succeeded ! I overcame this difficulty, I had become a conscious and courageous woman. This story is just another illustration of the hell I experienced during my first years of involvement with V.C.D.M.
Since then, my commitment to the emancipation of women is my priority. It takes different forms, through my commitment to the education of young girls and my struggle with widows and deserted women. Poetry and street theater are my tools of choice, one is a mirror for emotions, the other, a tool to touch, to educate citizens. I try to make these women aware of their suffering, their buried emotions, never expressed, sometimes never thought of. These meetings are really therapeutic. Then, secondly, I help these women to access government programs of which they are entitled beneficiaries. Most of the time, these women ignore them or feel helpless about the complexity by the administration.
I have also surveyed Maharashtra with Hema to collect thousands of grind mill-songs(ovis), these songs constitute the proof that the village women are lesser to none. They have this abundant creativity energy as well as an ability to comment analytically.