Illustration with an Indian woman who symbolically breaks open a cage that has emprisoned a group of women.

A woman who breaks all stereotypes

Behind the Scenes of "I wouldn't take no for an answer: How a solidarity-based sisterhood movement spread across rural India"

There are all kind of assumptions about rural women. People imagine such women do not have much formal education and so they are ignorant. They are supposed to be weak, and dependent on their spouses and families. Women in villages are not expected to know about their rights or have the courage to stand up for them.

In the west Indian state of Maharashtra, there is a woman who flies in the face of all these prejudices: Akkatai Teli. We at Unbias the News chose her story, told by Sanket Jain, because it dismantles stereotypes, points towards solutions, and reaffirms our own activist “bias” as a feminist publication.

Akkatai is elderly, unlettered, widowed, and lives in a village. Her personal phone number, written on the wall outside her house, is a hotline for women who find themselves in violent situations. For men who misuse that number to issue death threats to her, she keeps a sickle beside her bed.

Domestic violence is not a spatial issue but a gendered one. It happens in villages, towns and cities. While a higher number of perpetrators of violence against women live in low-and lower-middle-income parts of the world, each day 137 women are killed by family members globally. During Covid-19, men across the world became even more violent in their homes, so much so that the UN termed it the “shadow pandemic”.

Akkatai and the women in her informal support and solidarity network are remarkable because they no longer wish to be counted in the data above. They are overthrowing their socially imposed identity of “married women” to reclaim their self-respect and dignity as human beings. They have stopped decrying their “fates”, and trembling under the tyranny of “what will people say”. Instead they are outraged by the idea of men’s superiority, like Akkatai is when she says: “What shocks me every time is how a man thinks he can decide everything.”

Akkatai Teli. Copyright Sanket Jain 2021.
When poet Warsan Shire held an atlas, ran her fingers across the world,
“and whispered
where does it hurt?
it answered

We see these dots across the atlas as women, and our aim in bringing their stories together is that one day they would join to form a rock-solid chain. If you have a similar story to share, do write to us, and we would be honored to hold space for it.

Please consider a donation to support the work of our all-women newsroom. We create a space for journalists facing structural barriers, working towards a more equitable, inclusive world of journalism. Join our mission today!

Related Posts

People in a crowd of protesters hold up signs against a firey backup, in the foreground people read a giant book that has been censored

Why we are launching the Democracy Playbook

What tactics and strategies work to defend democracy from elite capture? How do people build movements to protect institutions, the environment, and each other from authoritarianism? What are the strategic, cultural, emotional resources possessed by the majority that can counter the way of authoritarianism?

In an ink illustration, several people wrapped in blankets stare in the distance at ship on fire sinking

Missing data, missing souls in Italy

From 2013 to the present, Refaat has searched everywhere for their children. For ten years he has been traveling, asking, and searching. He has even appeared on TV hoping one day to be reunited with them. But to this day he still does not know if his children were saved or if they are two of the 268 victims of the October 11, 2013 shipwreck, one of the worst Mediterranean disasters in the last three decades.

Widowed by Europe’s borders

It was already dark when Samrin was left alone in the woods. He had no backpack, sleeping bag, or food. His phone was running out of battery. The next morning, Samrin came online briefly to send Sanooja a final message on WhatsApp: “No water, I think I’ll die. Trangam, I love you.”

Unbias your inbox

Do you share our mission? Sign up for our newsletter so we can keep in touch!

Please confirm that you would like to hear from us via email:
We use Mailchimp as our marketing platform. You can unsubscribe at any time by clicking the link in the footer of our emails. By clicking below to subscribe, you acknowledge that your information will be transferred to Mailchimp for processing. Learn more about Mailchimp's privacy practices here.