In 2017, India’s largest women’s rights organisation, the All India Progressive Women’s Association (AIPWA), called for marches to take place in major cities, cities where the government is ignoring women’s concerns. 

The rallies, called ‘Million Moms March’ and ‘Mann Ki Baat’, took place across India in February and March, where women’s issues were a key focus.

“We are here to say that women are not forgotten.

We are here because we are women.

We have to march for our rights,” a woman from one of the protests said.

“If you don’t march for women’s freedom, we will march with you.”

The marches were organised by the Mann ki Baat Campaign, an organisation set up in 2016 by a group of activists and academics to fight for women and the environment. 

“We want to bring together the activists, activists, intellectuals and activists from all communities and all walks of life to raise awareness on the issues of women and climate change,” AIPWAs director Kunal Kumar said.

While the protests are focused on climate change, it is important to note that these women are the ones who are marching, as well as their children and families.

“These are the mothers who are living with the climate change and these are the children who are walking away with their future locked up in their fathers hands,” Kumar said.

The rallies are being held under the banner of the ‘Amarwala’ campaign, which aims to fight against patriarchal attitudes in the country. 

Amarwaala is a word coined by Kunal to describe the Indian women who are forced to work in India’s factories.

The organisation, which is funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), has launched a campaign called ‘Aam Marwala’.

“It is important that the women who marched should be recognised as the people who are making India’s progress.

It is important they should be celebrated for what they are doing,” the group’s president Ritu Puri said. 

While many women have been protesting the use of force by the government, they have been silent about the use by businesses of violence and harassment. 

For AIM, it’s a matter of principle.

“The government has the right to act but if the women are in a state of anxiety, it can only be because they have no support,” Puri said, adding that the organisation has been in touch with activists from other NGOs who are organising the marches.

There are currently around 150 women’s organisations operating across India.