Indien: Malika Virdi

Breaking the silence, Malika Virdi believes, is the starting point of any struggle-and she has broken many silences in her fight for women's rights.

— Malika Virdi

Starting with work in relief camps of women victims of the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, Malika Virdi (born 1958) has concerned herself with a series of issues connected to women's rights. She has worked on nonformal education, health issues, violence against women-particularly against dowry-related murders of young brides in North India-on campaigns to amend the rape law, and crisis intervention work. Malika has also entered the Panchayati Raj system for self-governance, and is currently working on issues concerning rural mountain women.

Things changed for Malika Virdi after the 1984 Sikh massacres, when she realized that she was part of a minority community. As part of her first steps toward what she would do for the rest of her life, Malika worked in the relief camps, and recorded the testimonies of women victims of the riots. Around the time, Asiad Village in Delhi was under construction, and migrant labor built their own settlements in various places. When Malika got an offer from the NGO Ankur to associate herself with nonformal education and health issues for women, she promptly took it up. She started with a crusade against all forms of violence against women, particularly against the growing incidence of dowry-related murders of young brides in North India. She was part of a long street theater campaign in Delhi from 1979 to 1984, both on the issue of dowry and to amend the Rape Law. From 1987 onward, Malika has worked with a series of organizations: first, the Rajasthan Women's Development Program, aimed at tackling women's health; then, she ran a campaign against the program launched by the government in the wake of the 1988 famine, when women were forced to get themselves sterilized; after that, she formed an autonomous women's collective-Mahila Samooh-in Ajmer, which did crisis intervention work and worked as a women's support group. Since 1994, Mahila has been associated with the Uttarakhand Mahila Manch UMM), a state-level women's network that was at the forefront of the struggle for a separate state, and campaigns against the liquor mafia in the region. In Sarmoli, where she lives, Malika has entered the Panchayati Raj system for self-governance. And through the local rural women's collective, Maati, she is committed to working on issues concerning rural mountain women.

Maati Uttarakhand Mahila Manch (UMM)