Binalakshmi has met
dozens of battalions of the Indian Army and several units of Indian paramilitary forces are in the state tackling insurgents.
Beginning with just 25 women, in December 2004, just days after Rebika’s husband was killed, Binalakshmi set upMWGSN, which was formally registered as a charity in 2007. Today the organisation has 150 members and reaches out to more than 1,000 women in Manipur who have in some way been affected by the violence.
“What we do is provide immediate help to women who have been deprived of a breadwinner. We offer them help with their children’s education and a source of earning for their daily needs as well as security as best as we can,’’ says Binalakshmi.
Help on a larger scale
Binalakshmi is also the secretary general of the Control Arms Foundation of India, an organisation that addresses issues relating to the use of force as well as the proliferation of small arms weapons. She organises campaigns for this cause across the world.
Her group in Manipur also provides legal assistance to the women to fight their cases for justice and compensation, since many can’t afford to hire lawyers.
Over the years Binalakshmi has received a clutch of awards on behalf of her organisation. Among them are the Humanitarian Initiative of the Year award in 2010, the Seán MacBride Peace Prize for outstanding work for peace, disarmament and human rights in 2010 and the CNN IBN Indian of the year in 2011.
MWGSN, which runs on donations, has transformed the lives of many people whose families have suffered at the hands of the violence. One person they helped is Huidrom Tanya Devi. She was just eight years old when she lost her father, a karate instructor, who was found shot dead by rebels in 2007.
The young girl still questions her father’s untimely death. “Even today I don’t know why my father died. I ask everyone but nobody has answers,” she says. The network gave her mother a loan of Rs3,000, with which she was able to start a small grocery business. Over time, Huidrom Tanya and her mother became confident entrepreneurs and now their shop, which sells embroidered dress materials, incense sticks, fruit and vegetables, is running well and earning them a living.
Mumtaz is another victim whose husband, a college lecturer, was shot dead in 2009. With five children to look after, she too started a grocery business with a loan of Rs8,000 fromMWGSN.
“Today’s gun violence has more to do with local, national and global politics than the separatist movement it started with,” says Binalakshmi. She is trying to raise the profile of the people of northeast India and, in the process, create a force of global ambassadors who will speak about Manipur and its problems. Her aim is to disarm the rebels and encourage them to find a peaceful end to the conflict.
“We can only reach a limited number of women, but the government can connect with thousands of them. With this organisation we are showing the way, believing that someday things will change for the better.”
many famous lobbyists like 1997 Nobel Peace Prize-winner Jody Williams
New Delhi for the arms trade treaty, which aims to limit the illicit sale of conventional arms