AIFAWH - 25 years of Struggles & Achievements
A R Sindhu
THE All India Federation of Anganwadi Workers and Helpers (AIFAWH) came into being on January 6, 1991 in its first national conference held in Udaipur in Rajasthan. The past twenty five years have been years of struggles and sacrifices for the AIFAWH and all its affiliates in different states, which played a pioneering role in mobilising lakhs of anganwadi employees in both united and independent struggles to improve the conditions of anganwadi employees and prevent ICDS from being handed over to private interests. As a result, AIFAWH has grown into one of the most militant trade union organisations in the country, having more than five lakh members in twenty six states. Our reach was proved to be nearly double that, with nine lakh anganwadi employees participating in the strike call given by the AIFAWH. With initiatives of policy interventions for strengthening the ICDS, we could earn the reputation of a responsible trade union. AIFAWH has entered its Silver jubilee year on January 6, 2015. AIFAWH working committee has decided to organise year long programmes throughout the country starting from that day. A meeting was organised to launch the Silver jubilee celebrations at BTR Bhawan, New Delhi on the occasion. AIFAWH working committee members and state leaders from nearby states attended the meeting. It was decided to hoist the AIFAWH flag throughout the country in every sector. AIFAWH flag was hoisted by Neelima Maitra, president of AIFAWH, followed by a song on the red flag by the AIFAWH activists from Himachal Pradesh. Tapan Sen, CITU general secretary inaugurating the function said that the CITU is proud of its federation which has raised the class consciousness of its activists into taking up the issues of the people and the society along with its own demands. While launching the most militant struggles and achieving many benefits, AIFAWH had also undertaken the task of organising other sections such as ASHAs, Mid-day Meal workers etc, he said. The scheme workers’ movement is an initiative of the AIFAWH, he said. We have to continue the joint campaign along with other class and mass organisations to save ICDS, he said. The meeting was chaired by Neelima Maitra, founder general secretary who described the early years and formation of the AIFAWH. She recalled the initiative of Nirupama Chatterjee, who was the minister for social welfare in the first Left Front government in West Bengal, who, along with her, approached, Vimal Ranadive and BT Ranadive for organising the anganwadi workers and helpers. She also recalled having the first convention in 1989 in Delhi and the first conference 24 years ago in Udaipur. K Hemalata, CITU vice president and the general secretary from 1998-2012 narrated AIFAWHs experience through the years. She explained how AIFAWH has developed cadres and intensified the struggles with a correct perspective. Narrating the experience of organising other sections, taking up joint struggles, she emphasized that the potential of these sections of the workers must be duly utilised by the democratic movement. Hannan Mollah, AIKS general secretary while congratulating the AIFAWH, emphasized the need for exposing the hypocrisy of the government and the Indian society which gives women ‘adoration’ in the place of salary for her work. He assured to take forward the joint struggles to save the ICDS. Suneet Chopra, AIAWU joint secretary said that the role of anganwadi workers and helpers in fighting many forms of oppression such as caste oppression is important. He assured that the agricultural workers will stand by the AIFAWH at all levels in their fight. Jagmati Sangwan, AIDWA general secretary said that like most of the women in the villages she always felt at home in the anganwadi centres which give a feeling of their rights being fulfilled. She said that it is very important for the AIFAWH to take up the struggles against women’s oppression along with AIDWA. Vikram Singh, SFI joint secretary said that the students get inspiration from the militancy of the struggles organised by the AIFAWH. By bringing large numbers of women out into the streets, and making them aware of their rights, the AIFAWH plays an important role in the fight against patriarchy. A photo album on the 25 years of AIFAWH was released by A K Padmanabhan, CITU president and handed it over to AIFAWH’s founder treasurer Nina Rao. He reminded the sacrifices of hundreds of activists in taking AIFAWH to this height. He congratulated the AIFAWH on its achievements and mentioned some of the struggles such as the Mahapadav, which was for the first time a mobilisation of such a large number of women workers by a single organisation in Delhi. A R Sindhu, AIFAWH general secretary said the Silver jubilee is an occasion to assess the achievements and shortcomings and take the struggles forward. As per the call of the seventh conference of AIFAWH to consolidate the organisation, and the call of 14th conference of the CITU to ‘reach the unreached’, AIFAWH had decided to develop 25 new cadres in each district where the organisation exists. It will be a minimum of 2500 new cadres all over the country. AIFAWH has also decided to bring out 25 kinds of leaflets on different issues to reach the unreached anganwadi workers and helpers. With the increased attacks and challenges on the occasion of the Silver jubilee, AIFAWH is gearing up for more vigorous struggles, both independent and joint, for the rights of the workers, for the rights of the people against all kinds of injustice.