Kozhikode: It is not just beautiful attires that get life in the sewing machine operated by P Viji, but the pride and self respect of a bunch of Malayali women too gets mended at the hands of this extraordinary woman. Activist P Viji of Penkoottu has been featured in the list of 'BBC 100 Women-2018.' As she is swarmed by both national and local media persons and other people who have gathered to congratulate her, Viji remains calm and welcomes everyone with her quintessential smile.
It was P Viji and her Penkoottu who initiated strikes demanding better facilities for women working in the unorganized sector. She has been working in one of the tailoring shops in Mittayitheruvu since 2005. Viji says that she wasn't provided toilet facilities or equal pay as her male colleagues.
It was her experiences which gave her the strength to spearhead the protests. Besides performing all the household chores, women work outside to earn a better living. Viji was disturbed by the fact that despite working so hard, women hardly receive the respect that she deserves. It was in 2010 that Viji led a protest for the first time. They had taken out to the streets demanding the setting up of toilets for the women employees. She, along with a few other women, sat on hunger strike in front of the house of the merchants association's leader. Their strikes were a success and e-toilets were installed in Kozhikode as a result of this.
Later, in 2013, Viji and her friends protested to pull the shutters on coupon mall. Though 18 women and 12 men were working there during that time, none of them had thought, until then, of protesting for their rights.
After that she led the protests in front of the corporation. A corporation worker was paid the meager amount of Rs 50 per day which was insufficient to meet the daily expenses. Viji says that her strikes forced the authorities to make many of the protesting laborers permanent employees. Besides, the remuneration too was increased.
Even today, women employees come to Viji sharing many unpleasant experiences and seeking her support. Viji has been standing up for the women's rights in the unorganized sector even in the middle of her stitching job and familial responsibilities.