Ek Pahal is a social activism group formed in 2015 by the students of Mahila Mahavidyalaya (MMV) under the leadership of Dr. Pratima Gond, Assistant Professor of Sociology, MMV, to raise mass awareness on and prevent commercial misuse of the female body.
Dr. Gond took into cognizance the discomfort and embarrassment caused to women, particularly younger ones, due to the indecent representation of females in consumer goods advertisements (posters, banners, mannequins, to name a few) at populous public places, crossroads, and near educational institutions in Varanasi. She objected to serving obscenity through advertisements, holding that such portrayal hurt women’s modesty and spoilt the image and essence of Kashi (ancient name of Varanasi) in the eyes of national and international devotees and tourists, and conveyed unwanted messages to the locals. The volunteer group initiated a petition campaign to bar such advertising and successfully gained over 5000 signatures.
The efforts of Dr. Gond and the activism of volunteers drew National and State agencies’ attention to the issue and effected administrative action.
Campaign Volunteer and Social Activist
2015 – 2017; Mahila Mahavidyalaya, Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi, India
Campaign Volunteers conducted a questionnaire-based survey with parents, adolescent children, and youth and prepared a report. They educated Shopowners on the issue but with limited success. After that, a Petition Campaign within the campus and a Facebook Community ‘एक पहल- नारी सम्मान के लिए’ (translating to An Initiative for Women’s Respect) got launched to gather mass support.
On having well above 5000 signatures, including those from male students and faculty members of the University, the report, together with the signature petition attached, was forwarded (through mails and registered posts) to dignitaries such as the First citizen of the country President, Prime Minister, Governors and Chief Ministers of States, and highest authorities of 22 concerned State and Central agencies such as Women Commissions, Supreme Court, and High Courts, to name a few. A delegation also met the District Magistrate (DM), Varanasi (administrative head of the district), and the campaign surfaced over local and national press and media (iNext, Amar Ujala, Dainik Jagran, Hindustan, Rashtriya Sahara, to name a few).
The campaign’s effect got soon realized as agencies like the National Commission for Women (NCW), and the Prime Minister Office (PMO) took cognizance of the problem. In May 2015, the Divisional Commissioner ordered the Municipal Commissioner, who instructed the officer-in-charge (advertising), to (with immediate effect) take strict actions against any advertising that hurts the modesty/decency of women or people’s religious sentiments. The Deputy Secretary of NCW also wrote to DM Varanasi to look into the matter and take strict action.
National Service Scheme
National Service Scheme (NSS) is a Central Sector Scheme of the Government of India, Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports that provides student youth of intermediate level, of the technical institution, graduate & post-graduate at colleges and University level of India an opportunity to partake in various government-led community service activities & programmes.
The sole aim of NSS is to provide young students with hands-on experience in delivering community service.
Volunteer and Head Leader
March 2013 – March 2015; National Service Scheme, Mahila Mahavidyalaya, Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi, India
∙ Elected as Head Leader, NSS unit (100 participants), MMV, BHU.
∙ Within the scope of Regular NSS Activity, completed 240 hours of community/social service, organized and coordinated multiple drives (literacy and education, environment conservation, health and hygiene, etc.), Nukkad Natak (street theatre), competitions (e.g., poster-making), etc. Within the scope of the Special Camping Programme, participated in a special camp of 7 days (3rd – 9th February 2014) in Chittupur Village (near BHU), wherein a survey concerning basic amenities access was conducted.
Irregularities in ration card (government-issued official document offering identification and subsidies on food grains and other cooking necessities to the eligible) distribution were identified, reported to the concerned administrative authorities, and ensured appropriate action. Resultantly, those involved in fraudulence were exposed, and Below Poverty Line (BPL) (meant for households living before the poverty line) and AAY (Antyodaya) (meant for poorest of poor households) ration cards of the deserving were made.
∙ The Unit Programme Officer, Dr. Pratima Gond, received a Letter of Thanks from significant ward members and authorities appreciating the Unit’s efforts, and she also got awarded Best NSS Programme Officer by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports.