Fisherwomen, under the Karaikal Maavata Meenava Pengal Peravai, have launched a signature campaign against commercialisation of customs such as ‘Nallangu’ and ‘Sammandhi Varisai’ that have come into vogue among the fishing communities.

These customary practices have become commercialised, where expensive gifts and articles are given away placing immense pressure on families, says Vedavalli, president of the peravai.

‘Sammandhi Varisai is the practice of in-laws bringing in token ritualistic items, as a mark of respect for the dead in the family. However, this practice had taken commercial overtones with families bringing expensive home appliances to the bereaved household.

“Earlier, ‘Sammandhi Varisai’ meant bringing betel leaves, supari, flowers and other ritual items. Now, they bring TV, fridge, AC, sofa-sets, setting norms for others to follow,” says Vedavalli. Though these practices were panned by women, nothing could be done until now, says Jayanthi, SHG member, Karaikalmedu. “Even in the event of accident-related deaths, the body would still be in the morgue, but the families would already arrive with costly home appliances. This is called ‘Sammandhi Varisai.’ The same happens by way of distributing gifts for Nallangu,” says Ms. Jeyanthi.

The Peravai, organised as a network of SHGs under SNEHA, a woman’s NGO, had mooted the idea of stopping these practices on the occasion of International Women’s Day on March 8.

The idea was in line with the theme of the UN for International Women’s Day, 2014, “Equality for Women is Progress for All,” says P. Vanaja, activist on sexual rights of women, and working with SNEHA.

“The goal is to sow the seeds of change from within the community and from within the household. Women, while brainstorming on a tangible way of marking the International Women’s Day, realised that this customary practice was gnawing away at peace within households. They decided to launch a signature campaign as the first step,” says Ms.Vanaja.

According to Jeeva, Panchayatar, Karaikalmedu, these customs had reached commercial proportions and it definitely needed to be reigned in.

For now, the signature campaign that was launched in Karaikalmedu would be taken up in all 10 fishing villages of Karaikal. The Peravai has also mooted the idea to the 52 fishing hamlets in Nagapattinam district and it has been well received, says Vedavalli.

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