Women Farmers On TIME Cover Tells The Story Of India's Female Resistance

Here's how the feature of women farmers on TIME is a recognition of all female-led protests India has seen throughout history.

Tanvi Akhauri
New Update
women farmers on time cover
Women farmers on TIME cover: For their March cover, the prestigious magazine has featured the resilient female force behind the ongoing agitation around New Delhi against the centre's controversial farm laws. Global recognition of this scale for women farmers is a first and an impression of how the fore of protests in India, in recent times, has been led by women making their voice heard.

The piece, titled The Women at the Frontlines of India's Farmers' Protests, outlines how women from Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Chhattisgarh and elsewhere have asserted their place around the Delhi border, where farmers' protests have been underway since August 2020. There is also mention of women at farmers' protests having sought to normalise the conversation around menstruation and shatter taboos by setting up sanitary napkin stores on-site.

See women farmers on TIME below: 

"I Cannot Be Intimidated, I Cannot Be Bought"

Amid claims by many on social media that the farmers' protests are being externally funded for invested gains, a 55-year-old farmer from Haryana named Sudesh Kandela is quoted saying in TIME, "I didn’t know what I was capable of beyond the expectations of me as a woman, a wife and mother. But I am here now and I cannot be oppressed. I cannot be intimidated. I cannot be bought."

In January 2021, while presiding over the farm legislation session, Chief Justice of India (CJI) Sharad Arvind Bobde had stated that the court was in “appreciation” of the stand that “elders, women and children will not participate in the present protests." This remark by the court had sparked outrage, for it contested the capability and capacity of women who were choosing to journey to Delhi with fearless resolve.

Such was the vigour with which women took centre stage at the farmers' protests that January 18 was marked as 'Women Farmers Day' at Singhu border and other protest sites. The January 26 tractor rally too witnessed an overwhelming presence of women behind the wheel on Delhi's roads - a time in history that will henceforth be symbolised by the viral photo of 62-year-old Manjeet Kaur who drove a jeep with five of her companions from Patiala to Singhu.


Women Farmers On TIME: A Recognition Of All Female-Led Protests

A 2018 Oxfam report states that women in India comprise 33 percent of the agriculture labour force and 85 percent of rural women are engaged in agriculture. These statistics offer enough foundation for justifying women farmers' rightful participation in these protests that concern them. Does any justification then remain for protest sites to be all-male? Women at farmers' protests aren't just a matronly presence, tending to the domestic needs of the agitating community. Their contribution goes way beyond passive existence, transcending into active resistance.

This is not surprising, since the pages of India's history from every protest era picture a full-powered female presence. Right from the early battles of independence up to the recent elderly sit-in at Shaheen Bagh and youth demonstrations at Jamia - women have been at the forefront of dissent. And since the farmers' protests are being hailed as the biggest human protest in history, isn't it only fitting that the mix has ample representation?

The farmers' protest had already been thrust into a big spotlight earlier this year when international icons like Rihanna and Greta Thunberg tweeted on it. Now it is with the TIME cover that due recognition has been given - on a global platform - exclusively to women farmers who refuse to back down, a testament to all the times in all of history when women have refused to back down.

Views expressed are the author's own. 

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