Manipur Women Gun Survivors Network

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When we talk of valiant women, the first image that pops up in our minds is that of Rani Lakshmi Bai brandishing her sword with a baby tied to her back.  For a generation that hasn’t witnessed such a war, her story seems pretty unbelievable.

So, will be able to shrug off that disbelief once we see women like her in today’s world  battling the war of life? Let’s see.

On 24th December 2004, Ms. Binalakshmi Nepram witnessed the aftermath of the killing of 27-year-old Buddhi Moirangthem in Wabgai Lamkhai village of Thoubal district, southeast of Manipur’s state capital Imphal. Till date, his young wife Rebika Akham doesn’t know who the killers were and why they killed her husband.

A few days after the incident, Ms. Nepram contributed Rs.4500 to buy a sewing machine for Rebika. This machine enabled her to to stitch and tailor clothes for the villagers and to secure her humble living after the dead of her husband. This intervention was the beginning of the Manipur Women Gun Survivors Network (MWGSN).

The MWGSN was formed in an attempt to help women like Rebika, whose lives have been changed dramatically because of the gun killings of a beloved. The network attempts to lift women above the trauma and agony faced in armed conflict by helping them to find ways to heal the scars that decades of violence have caused to the community.

It is the first initiative of its kind in India. The formal launch took pace on April 26, 2007 in Imphal.

So far more than 40 women have received financial assistance as well as legal support for small scale entrepreneurial work so that they can move on in life with their new found courage.

To enable women to start a small production unit or other business venture, the Network helps the women to open their own bank accounts and provides them with micro finance in form of interest free loans.

With the help of this money they women are able to start and carry on wok related to silk relling, weaving, production of mats or even agricultural occupation such as fishery, piggery or mushroom farming.

The MWGSN also forms a “Solidarity Network” of committed young people who believe in helping the gun survivors and in controlling the use and spread of small arms.They keep in touch with the women supported by MWGSN and ssist them in whatever way they can.

In addition, the network actively lobbies and educates government, civil society, and international agencies about this specific form of violence against women. In the 52nd Session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women held in 2008, Binalakshmi Nepram addressed the UN and  screened the group’s film, “The Story of Manipur Women Gun Survivors.” Next year, Manipur Women plans to conduct mapping of areas affected by armed violence in India’s northeast.

Most recently, Nepram received CNN-Indian Broadcasting Network’s Real Heroes Award for 2011 in the women’s welfare category. This award reflects her work to empower hundreds of Manipur women survivors of gun violence. Nepram was also recognized for her disarmament work when she was given the Sean MacBride Peace Prize in 2010.

Yes. Such people do exist and women like Nepram turn such incredible stories into reality to show what a woman is capable of.

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