| Bidyalakshmi and Tonaojit in Imphal on Wednesday. Picture by UB Photos |
Imphal, Aug. 21: A young girl from Manipur’s Jiribam subdivision, Sougaijam Bidyalakshmi Leima, a first year college student, began her cycling tour through the Northeast to spread the message of stopping violence against women.
Bidyalakshmi will be covering the seven states of the region during the trip which will conclude on November 30 in Imphal.
Manipur’s social welfare minister Akoijam Mirabai Devi flagged off the tour from the gate of Kangla Fort this morning. Bidyalakshmi will be touring Manipur for nine days before leaving for Nagaland en route to other states in the region. Khangembam Tonaojit, a member of Manipur Cycle Club, is accompanying her in the Manipur leg of the trip. Bidyalakshmi will go solo in other states.
“I have been planning the cycling tour for the past one year. I read reports of crimes against women in newspapers almost daily and am concerned about the rise of such crimes, particularly rape, not only in Manipur but also in other parts of the Northeast. So I decided to contribute something in the fight to end gender violence,” Bidyalakshmi said.
Tonaojit said he was accompanying Bidyalakshmi during her Manipur tour to show solidarity with her cause and lend a voice to end gender violence. According to records maintained by an Imphal-based NGO, Women Action for Development, there were 269 cases of violence against women in Manipur last year. These include 27 cases of rape and four cases of murder after rape. Till June this year, there were 10 cases of rape including rape of one minor girl.
Bidyalakshmi has the full support of her family in her venture. She is the fourth of five siblings. Four of them are girls. Her father Sougaijam Iboton, chief functionary of Child Welfare Ashram, a children’s home at Jiribam located 222km from Imphal, was present during the flagging-off ceremony here.
“We are fully supporting her cause. We have been planning for this over the past year. We sent letters to the chief ministers of the other states in the Northeast seeking support to her cause. Offices of chief ministers of Assam and Tripura have responded well. My daughter is anticipating a grand reception in these two states,” Iboton said.
The fond father has bought a brand new cycle for her daughter’s trip, along with other gadgets.
While flagging off the tour, Mirabai Devi appealed to governments and people in other states of the region to welcome her and extend support to her cause.
When Leima reached the Thoubal district headquarters this afternoon, a large crowd received her. She will head for Moreh tomorrow morning.