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Gharapuri Panchayat ties with DraftCraft International for Widow Reforms

Media-Legal Think Tank DraftCraft International recently held a discussion with Gharapuri Gram Panchayat members including Sarpanch Baliram Thakur during the panchayat's monthly gathering. The discussion was held to further awareness and support on widow practices and reforms as part of DraftCraft International's nationwide initiative #TheWidowReformsProject.

Gharapuri Sarpanch Baliram Thakur (second from left) with panchayat members during the discussion
Popularly known as Elephanta Island, Gharapuri (meaning 'the city of caves') is situated 10 km from Mumbai in the Arabian Sea. The island is known for Elephanta Caves - a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site and is a very popular tourist destination. 

Home to three villages - Rajbandar, Shetbandar and Morabandar, Gharapuri has a population of about 1,200 people. DraftCraft International has been pivotal in ensuring the reach of electricity to a power-parched Elephanta Island through India's longest undersea 7.5 km-long cable in 2018, after decades of campaigning and media-legal intervention.

The meeting was attended by the Sarpanch Baliram Thakur, Deputy Sarpanch Sachin Mhatre, members Meena Bhoir, Jyoti Koli, Mangesh Avte and Village Development Officer Pavitra Kadu. The panchayat members unanimously decided to pass a resolution requesting Solicitor Gajanan Khergamker to intervene and provide media-legal assistance through his team of journalists and lawyers for the issue.

Sarpanch Baliram Thakur said, "We are aware of the issue and have already started working in the direction. We are keen to pass a resolution in this regard and spread awareness among the villagers."

Elephanta Caves is a UNESCO World Heritage Site
In a move braced to initiate widow reforms across India, Media-Legal Thinktank DraftCraft International headed by Solicitor Gajanan Khergamker launched a Ground Zero Project on 'Widow Reforms: Mores And Laws' at Herwad Village in Kolhapur district, Maharashtra starting 1 June 2022. 

The move is an outcome of resolutions passed unanimously by the Herwad Gram Panchayat, headed by Sarpanch Surgonda Patil and Social Reformer Pramod Zinjade’s organisation Mahatma Phule Samaj Seva Mandal (MPSSM) requesting DraftCraft International to intervene and provide media-legal assistance for the issue. 

Accordingly, DraftCraft International generates media to spread awareness on the issue; publicises the same through talks, exhibitions, screenings and interactive events across rural and urban Maharashtra, and, most importantly, provides legal assistance to entities across Maharashtra and beyond state borders to draft resolutions, notifications and formulate a state-wide legislation on the subject.

The journey towards Widow Emancipation began with Herwad Gram Panchayat in Shirol taluka of Kolhapur passing a historic resolution on 5 May 2022 to ban customs like removing a widow's mangalsutra, toe-rings, wiping off her sindoor, breaking her bangles and barring her from participating in social activities as part of age-old rituals. The campaign was immediately taken up by seven villages and a slew of others in the days to follow, across Maharashtra even in neighbouring Goa. 

In a pathbreaking move, for the first time ever, in the death centenary year of Chhatrapati Rajarshi Shahu (Shahu Maharaj), the Maharashtra government, resolved to tackle the social scourge of widow customs and malpractices, asked Gram Panchayats across the state to ban widow rituals and customs on 17 May 2022.

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