Saraswati Uikey, India

“Amidst the journey of exploitations, abuses, struggles and hungry stomach, I happened to attend one of Ekta Parishad’s youth training programmes. The purpose of working for the landless, indigenous and the marginalised gave me hope of living a meaningful life”,

 But it took Saraswati Uikey years to muster strength and believe that a dignified and respectful life is possible for her too. And this hope finally pushed her to join Ekta Parishad when only 18 years old, thus commencing her new life.

Saraswati Uikey works in the Raisen district of Madhya Pradesh, India, on the forest, land and water rights of the marginalised communities. Back in 2005 when she first came to this village, as a single mother, Saraswati faced a lot of backlashes, name tagging and spite from the villagers especially the women. But through years of nonviolent dialogues, perseverance, inner strength and love, today the village community loves Saraswati and her daughter’s family. And why not, for through her relentless efforts, she has helped more than 1000 families get their legal rights over their forest lands.

The soft spoken lady can be very straightforward and comes across as a natural leader with her ability to communicate and explain land issues and complex legal ways in a language that is understood by the locals. come from an indigenous tribal lineage – the Gond tribe. And that I believe this has made me more sensitive towards nature and the problems of the marginalised, indigenous and the needy. 

“It was not difficult for me to decide that I have to walk from Delhi to Geneva. Today everyone wants a change because the way our world is heading, it’s only creating more pollution, poverty and exploitation. 

I want to walk for my Gond tribe, walk for my Raisen family, I want to walk for myself”.