India’s ‘pink’ vigilante women

Date: January 1, 1970
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The several hundred vigilante women of India’s northern Uttar Pradesh state’s Banda area proudly call themselves the “gulabi gang” (pink gang), striking fear in the hearts of wrongdoers and earning the grudging respect of officials. These women have fought corruption in all levels of Indian life and the discrimination that women especially face.

This article may be used in training to:
1)     Examine the portrayal of women in society in general and media in particular.
2)     Empower women through education to become self reliant.
3)     Expose that women groups need not be feminists.
Trainer’s notes:
The story is based on a group of women in Banda, one of the poorest districts in India. They live in abject poverty in a male dominated society where domestic and sexual violence is prevalent. The “Gulabi gang” is rising above the different levels of discrimination it faces including the Caste-System by challenging the government to provide education and employment. Some of the battles they have faced head on are against corruption by contesting the state’s polls with the group leader as a candidate. This in itself encourages other women to take control of their lives and challenge unfair practices that discriminate against them. This group also has a male’s point of view who works with the group towards eradicating problems that undermine society, e.g. child marriages, dowry deaths, depleting water resources, farm subsidies and the theft of funds from government projects.
Sources: This story is told from the perspective of one woman who speaks for herself and on behalf of the women in her group. It also takes the perspective on a man, a member of the “Gulabi gang.” Having a man relay the story balances up the sourcing to ensure that both women and men speak. Since this group is predominantly female, having only women speak would have reduced them to just a feminist group.
The headline “India’s ‘pink’ vigilante women” shows how the media finds it difficult to tag women other than within the socially defined traditional roles. When women step out of these roles, the media finds ways, usually through language, to "keep women in their place." The story also could have been strengthened with data on how many men are in the “Gulabi gang.”
Discussion questions:
1)     How are women portrayed in the article?
2)     How does this article depict women’s roles in society?
3)     What message about women is conveyed in this article?
4)     Would the article be different if it was about male vigilantes ?
Training exercises:
1)     Give trainees a copy of the case study and ask them to count the number of sources in the story. Whose voice is missing from the story? How do you think the story might have changed if more men were sourced? Is this a women’s issue or a gender issue? Explain your answer.
2)      Compare the Gulabi gang with the women of WOZA, in the article below. Research other woem’es groups that are using public protest in the gface of government shortcomings.
Other training resources:

Download : Pink vigilante article (3)

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