Peasant Women Society, Pakistan
Peasant Women Society is a self-organised group of women farmers and rural land tenants in geographically isolated communities in the militarised and conservative Punjab province of Pakistan. Peasant Women Society organises women who have been disowned by their families or have been kicked off the land by landlords.
Army personnel regularly threaten activists of Peasant Women Society and other women peasants, driving them off their land, forcing them to sign exorbitant rental contracts, or subjecting them to extortion. They are also blocked from selling their goods by other members of their communities, because it is considered improper for women to publicly sell the goods they produce. Women who transgress this social norm have been harrassed and bullied at markets. The condemnation of women vendors extends to their families, placing an additional burden on them.
The women of Peasant Women Society document and expose the violations perpetrated by the army, hold markets in women’s own homes, and travel from village to village by motorbike, raising awareness among women and girls about their rights as agricultural workers. They also organise street demonstrations against the daily discrimination that they and other women face. They have taken a traditional women’s domestic tool, the laundry stick, and are putting this to a defiant new use during their street demonstrations: banging the sticks to show their resistance.
With the support of Mama Cash, Peasant Women Society was able to afford its own space, where women could get together to exchange their knowledge of agricultural farming techniques, take literacy courses, and organise new campaigns for their rights and livelihoods as peasant women. One campaign has been for women to fulfill their rights to inherit and own land, a right by law in Pakistan though one that is rarely practiced because of cultural norms.
Peasant Women Society received grants from Mama Cash in 2010 and 2012.