Ujjain: For 13 long years, this woman of grit fought the system

Ujjain: Women are working shoulder to shoulder with men- virtually beckoning the end of decadesold nuance of persecution and suppression and signaling their rise as highly competitive breed to the menfolk. Aptly justifying and living up to this narrative, Hem Kumari Budhana, a woman is working ceaselessly to this effect.

Posted as woman child development officer close to 4 decades she exemplifies today’s woman-to-be. She is the paradigm of compassion, empathy and sympathy and also the personification of persistence, fortitude and resolve. We spoke to her on the sidelines of International women’s day where she articulated her life’s struggle, confrontations and success mantra.

(Excerpts from the Interview) Tell us a bit about your life and struggle in general? Way back in 1982, I started out as a supervisor in panchayat and rural department. In those times, women and child development department was not a separate entity.

However, back in 1992, then government carve out and established it as separate department. We were overjoyed and ecstatic on the new development however our joy was short-lived as after 4 years in 1996, again our department was clubbed with panchayat and rural department.

In spite of gaining much experience and seniority, all my colleagues and I, were denied promotion and relegated to lower gradation as a part of rejig. Such arbitrary and autocratic decisiveness did not go down well with us and I thought of taking legal course of action.

Having said that, my colleagues termed it as adventurous and cautioned me from taking any drastic step. However, after much convincing, sense prevailed and they stood behind me to seek justice. We fought the battle on the legitimate grounds in the court of law. But this was not the only fight; we intended to triumph as people bombarded us with threats and coercion all the way. Notwithstanding, we went ahead and fought for 13 long years. Eventually, verdict came into our favour and we emerged victorious convincingly.

What kept you going for so long? From where do you draw strength? I think, we must know that standing up for our rights is no sin. The sin is that if we don’t stand up for it. One thing which must be mentioned here is that I fought this case along with 148 state workers.

As far as my strength is concerned, my ideal happens to be a woman and she is none other than my mother. My mother always supported me no matter what and exhorted me to follow my dreams. Ironically, she was socially quite active and was a celebrated leader in our locality even then.

She never discriminated between a girl and a boy and allowed us to finish our studies and choose our career. What does women and child development department do? Tell us bit about its mandate and various policies? The broad mandate of our department is to have holistic development of women and children.

As a nodal agency for the advancement of women and children, it formulates plans, policies and programmes; enacts and amends legislation, guides and coordinates the efforts of both governmental and non-governmental organisations working in the field of women and child development.

Besides, this it implements certain innovative programmes for women and children. These programmes cover welfare and support services, training for employment and income generation, awareness generation and gender sensitization. These programmes play a supplementary and complementary role to the other general developmental programmes in the sectors of health, education, rural development etc.

All these efforts are directed to ensure that women are empowered both economically and socially and thus become equal partners in national development along with men. For holistic development of the child, the Ministry has been implementing the world’s largest outreach programme of integrated child development services (ICDS) providing a package of services comprising supplementary nutrition, immunisation, health check-up and referral services, pre-school nonformal education.

There is effective coordination and monitoring of various sectoral programmes. The major policy initiatives undertaken by the department are launching nutrition programme for adolescent girls, establishment of the commission for protection of child rights and enactment of protection of women from domestic violence act. Any message you would like to give or share?

Women must develop self-confidence as it is the key to development and growth. They must not look for assistance or mentorship from anyone rather they should become assistance and mentor themselves. Woman is no lesser than anyone in stature or in kind. Treat her with respect, dignity and honour

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