Ima Kethel – the only market in the world run by women

Ima market, also known as the Ladies’ or Mother’s market, in the capital city of Manipur is not just any other market but is unique and different from all the other markets we have ever seen or heard.
All the shops in the market are headed only by ladies, although men can go and buy things, but they are not part of the selling side – which is totally opposite of what happens in other parts of the country and the world.
The market is said to have been established around 1500 AD and is run solely by women of different communities of the state. The market can be seen as a ‘mini Manipur’, which employs over 4,000 women selling all kinds of stuff ranging from fruits and vegetables to flowers and clothes and handicraft products. It is the lifeline of the state and serves as an important trading centre.

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Ima Market
The earthquake that hit Manipur last year damaged the iconic Ima market building however, it failed to damage the spirit of women entrepreneurs in the market who stand tall and did not get discouraged by the damage done by the quake.
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Building under repair
After the earthquake, the shops had to be shifted on the streets as cracks appeared in many pillars of the building and now ladies are sitting on the corner of the roads running the shops as they used to do inside the building.
When asked for the reason one of the shop owners who sell flowers said, “Waiting for the building repair will take longer and we also have a family to feed, we cannot wait for the work to be completed and then run our shops. We don’t have any other option, but to run the shops on the roads.”

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Ladies selling vegetables outside the building
Echoing her, another shopkeeper at the market who sells fish said ,”If we wait for the building to be repaired, before we could set up our shops again, how will we run our households? It will take time to rebuild the market, but that doesn’t mean that our lives will come to a standstill!”

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One of the shopkeeper
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The market was also affected badly by the demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes by the Government of India, due to which the sales were dropped as there was lack of proper cash flow in the city.
Left with no option, the sellers are forced to accept old currency, and ask the customer either to purchase goods worth the entire sum of Rs 500/ Rs 1000, or refuse them, due to unavailability of change.
The ladies running the shops are mostly those women who are the sole bread earners of their families, ranging from all age groups – starting from as young as 18 to around 65. They either own a particular section of the area to set up a shop, or they have to rent the place in the complex and the section owned by the ladies are only transferred to other ladies of the family – daughter or daughter-in-law – or can be only brought by other ladies. Men are not part of the transfer of the land.IMG_20161124_081420251.jpg
They either own a particular section of the area to set up a shop, or they have to rent the place in the complex and the section owned by the ladies are only transferred to other ladies of the family – daughter or daughter-in-law – or can be only brought by other ladies. Men are not part of the transfer of the land.
Earning is not only the sole reason they setup a shop in this market, rather it is also about engaging in productive time utilisation or being independent. Many women set up shops to feel independent by using the free time at their disposal.
“My family does not depend on me as my kids are working and they can manage to run the family. Even if I don’t work, I can live a fine life. My reason of coming here is just to utilise my time as I don’t have much to do in home,” said a lady in her sixties who sell fruits.
Echoing her, another lady in her fifties also said, “My husband was in government service and I too came here to use my time. My family is not dependent on me, all my children are doing fine jobs. I am running my shop here from the past seven years as I do not have much to do at home.”IMG_20161124_081503048
58-year-old Bilasini who is married to a retired policeman, started working at the Ima market three decades back, not for the money that the job had to offer, but to develop an identity of her own.
“It is very important for everyone to have an identity of their own. It should not matter whether you are a man or woman. Stepping out of the house and earning makes you independent and changes your vision as well,” she says.
The Manipuri society, which unlike most parts of the country is matriarchal in nature, upholds the rank of a woman in a household, and the Ima Keithel market is just one such example. The market opens as early as 7 in the morning and shuts as the sun sets. Situated near the Kangla Fort, the place is easily accessible by road.
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A village free of open defecation, alcohol and violence

An open defecation-free (ODF) Garo village in Goalpara district of Assam is not only the state’s cleanest village, but also is a place where no one consumes alcohol, drugs or smoke and it has never witnessed any crime in at least past 17 years, which  is not only a model for the state but for the entire country.

Rangsapara,  Assam’s cleanest village, has started its work to be a clean and peaceful place in 1999, said Roberth John Momin, Village Head, who is part of this since the very starting.

The village has also taken a pledge to be plastic- free from this month and is also planning to become the first village in the country with a cashless economy, he said.

“The arrival of the Swachh Bharat Mission-Gramin was a blessing for the place.  The mission came to the block in the year 2014 and with its help and efforts of public health engineering department (PHED) the villagers began to have pucca toilets, which was previously only kutcha,” said  J V N Subramanyam, Deputy Commissioner

Rangchapara was declared the cleanest village in the state for the year 2016-17 by the public health engineering department (PHED) last month and also received a sum of five lakh rupees in form of the award by the CM Sarbananda Sonowal.IMG_20170215_141033483_BURST000_COVER_TOP

The village was selected by  Omeo Kumar Das Institute of Social Change and Development – a third party which examined every village in every district on the basis of criteria including attempts to become ODF, pucca toilets and their condition, attempts to promote awareness on cleanliness amongst others.

“It was in the year 1999 when the village people began talking about cleanliness and in 2000, we formed a 10-member committee, which was headed by me,” said Momin.

“The committee has taken four resolutions – to be a peaceful and united village, to be a clean village, every household should have toilets and availability of clean drinking water for all,” he said.

The village with 88 households – all Christians – since the formation of the committee did not see any case of open defection, violence or anyone consuming drugs, alcohol or smoking.

The village with 88 households – all Christians – since the formation of the committee did not see any case of open defection, violence or anyone consuming drugs, alcohol or smoking.“We have imposed a fine of Rs 5001 if anyone found not following our resolutions, but the best part of our steps is that the fine was never imposed on anyone,” said Momin.

“We have imposed a fine of Rs 5001 if anyone found not following our resolutions, but the best part of our steps is that the fine was never imposed on anyone,” said Momin.img_20170215_113854202_hdr

Villager’s intention was to make the village clean, this intention will also bring fame and award was a surprise to them.

“The villagers had no idea that they can even be cleanest in the district, but they were found to be cleanest in the state,” said Abdul Mozid, Senior Block Development Officer, Balijana Block.

“The village is never affected by the conflicts in the area; they live peacefully and with unity,” said Mozid.

“The village is never affected by the conflicts in the area; they live peacefully and with unity,” said Mozid.

“The villagers also have proper waste management. You can find a dustbin after every few steps and they dispose of biodegradable and non- biodegradable waste accordingly,” he said.

The village has two schools – one primary and another middle. The people are neither very rich nor are highly educated. The muddy road which connects the village to the district is also not in a very good condition and the 108 ambulance refuses to ply in the village.

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Village’s Lower Primary

“We have been demanding for the money since 2014, but no money has been granted. It is a very serious problem,” said Ratna Nath, Panchyat President Balijana Block.

The steps to be the cleanest village has not only helped the villagers to get the award but has also reduced the number of children falling ill in a population of 475.

“People are now connecting health with cleanliness, which has also helped in reducing the number of diarrhoea cases to half. The village is a perfect example of what people and government together can do,” Subramanyam said.

“The village is now a brand and is helping in bringing changes in the nearby villages. People began to follow its path to not only be clean, but healthy as well,” he said.

The main profession in the village is agriculture, and only seven people are in government jobs. Most of the houses are kutcha, but with the help of the Indira Awas Yojana, they began to have a plastered house made of bricks.IMG_20170215_132809375