KASHYAP Shraddha (50) , INDIA

AN EPITOME OF COURAGE AND A TRUE CHANGE-MAKER

Shraddha belongs to a community called “Kurmi”, which is a caste in the category “Other Backward Classes” (OBC) in India. The major occupation of the Kurmi community is agriculture farming.

Shraddha was born into a lower middle-class family in Darrabhata Village in Bilaspur District (State Chhattisgarh). Her father continued the legacy of farming which he inherited from his forefathers. Despite the discrimination she faced at home, she struggled hard to get her education. It wasn’t easy for her to convince her parents to let her study after the 8th grade. To pursue her studies further she had to move out, which she did to complete her bachelor’s degree.

She had known since she was old enough to understand that her grandfather has already fixed her marriage long before she was born. Her grandfather promised one of his friends that if a girl were born, he would get her married in his friend’s family. Shraddha who had struggled enough to get an identity wasn’t willing to give in to societal pressure and marry a person who couldn’t be an equal partner to her. At that time, she was quite inspired by a social worker called Shastri Ji in Bilaspur who motivated her not to let her struggle go in vain and to inspire other women and bring change in their lives. She took his advice into account and moved explored new horizons. So, she decided to play the role of a change maker in the lives of oppressed women.

She moved 2000 km away from her hometown to Madhya Pradesh State to work with Ekta Parishad, which is engaged in the fight for the rights of Dalits, Tribals and other deprived communities for land, water, and forest rights. Ekta Parishad follows Gandhian ideology.

Shraddha, who had fought patriarchy all her life to build her own identity, knew the plight of women having the lowest status even in the most deprived and oppressed communities and thus was firm about creating an equal space for women who could then   be assertive enough to claim equal rights to land and property. Thus, thanks to her efforts many landless people received land rights and the daughters and daughters-in-law received equal property rights.

Shraddha played leadership roles in many land right campaigns advocating for policy changes. Few such nonviolent movements were:

- “Janadesh 2007” (foot march from Gwalior to Delhi, 350 km with 25’000 landless people).

- “Jan Satyagrah 2012”, “Mahila Evam Bhoomi Samvad Yatra” in August to October 2018 for women’s land and farmers rights from Trivandrum, Kerala to New Delhi.

Apart from the above-mentioned major campaigns, she has been engaged in the land rights campaigns at the local, district and state level. She has been active in promoting organic farming, creating seed banks, and awareness generation on climate changes. She also represented Ekta Parishad at the Copenhagen Summit for climate change in 2009. She raised the issues of climate change in her country and the urgency to address this issue.

Shraddha Kashyap has become a great inspiration to women. She has not only brought change in her own life but has influenced the lives of many other women too. She has proven that no hurdle can stop a woman if she is determined to achieve her dream.

Her work contributes to achieving UN SustainableDevelopment Goals-Agenda 2030 Targets #4, #5, #8& #10