Blog Guest Contributor: Marianne du Toit Pieterse 

India is a country of contrasts, known for over-the-top Bollywood movies, golden statues, the sacred River Ganges and the majestic Taj Mahal.  The flipside of the coin is vastly different with extreme poverty, child marriages, and alcoholism under most of the male population, domestic abuse and non-existent women rights.  

Sometimes change start, unexpected and emotive, and it captures the attention of the world. 

Meet the Green Gang. 

They are a group of stick wielding women vigilantes, dressed in green saris, and taking their power back.  This movement embodies women empowerment and the world is starting to notice.

How it started

For centuries, Indian woman have been at the mercy of their men.  They dared not speak up for the fear of abuse or being shunned.  Desperate females who couldn’t take the abuse any longer, would jump into rivers to put an end to their misery.  How did these women, who suffered in silence for centuries,  and who were too afraid to step out of their homes, start showing courage?

It usually takes a small act of kindness from a stranger to start a change.  While contemplating suicide, Geeta Davi (the leader of the Green Gang) had such an encounter from a young member of the Hope Welfare Trust.  Fortunately, she listened to the youngster’s advice and together they approached other women in similar situations.  The Trust taught these women basic self-defence, taught them to write their names and assisted them in opening up their own bank accounts.  They were taught how to interact with people and even how to use a cell phone. With an initial number of approximately 20 women, the Green Gang was born.

The power of change

It started in a small rural village in Ramsipur, a few kilometres from Varanasi where the Gang started patrolling, enduring being ridiculed by villagers.  It took time and patience but the Green Gang is now being  taken seriously.  The women started gathering information about drinking dens and took action.  They continued with relentless raids against alcoholism and domestic abuse, snatching bottles of liquor from intoxicated men and smashing them.  Imagine the ordinary villagers’ look of amazement and utter disbelief as these fearless women acted against tremendous odds.  The Green Gang charged into dingy dens, confiscating alcohol and tearing up playing cards.  Gamblers who resorted to violence against the intrusion were promptly dealt with.

Building momentum

The Green Gang caught the attention of the Police and they are taking notice of these slogan-shouting, fearless group.  The colour green now strikes terror in the hearts of culprits.  Police subsequently confirmed that the number of perpetrators decreased since the start of the raids.  The Green Gang developed into an organised women’s movement. 

The aftermath

Neighbouring villages’ women have started to form their own groups of powerful female warriors.  Police shared contact numbers for tip-offs and in case assistance is needed.  Some women were appointed as police volunteers, no small feat in a country of male domination! 

A blessing in disguise

Strange as it may sound, there are many grateful men who give thanks to the brave women who initiated change.  Every day, men would meet at a pre-arranged location outside the village to drink and gamble.  This resulted earnings being gambled away.  Since they were raided by the Green Gang, some of these men made a pledge to forego their vices and now hand over most of their earnings to their wives to run the households. 

A hopeful future

The youths of the villages are constantly reminded and given reasons to lead a good life.  This is done in the hopes that the abusive patterns do not continue as it has done so for centuries.

Blog image credits: 

Creator: BBC Universal

Credit: Getty Images/BBC Creative

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