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Try as I might, I couldn’t sleep last night. Not only could I not get comfortable in my usual position with my head pillowed on my arms, but I also could not move around freely to get comfortable without jingling loudly enough to wake my roommates. The reason? Bangles. As I walked around the villages in Sirmaur, the women had been horrified by my lack of marriage symbols- the single strand mangalsutra was not enough apparently. One of them had been kind enough to press some on me- a dozen on each arm. They were sparkly and pretty, but they were as limiting as handcuffs.
Which is fitting, because the women there lead a fettered life. They lack a choice in nearly everything. True, even for most urban women, education is dictated by finances and family and not always in that order. However, these women lack a say in everything.
I had gone there to assess water harvesting measures. It is the women that do most of the fetching of water. Not one of them was willing to decisively state what she would like. ‘How can I? Speak to him when he comes back.’
A young bride of four months was being taken to the nearest town for fertility treatments. Thankfully, the doctor was a good man and instead of taking advantage of the family’s need and fleecing them, prescribed for her what she needed most- iron supplements. I worry that the in-laws desperation will drive them to another, less ethical doctor. Did anyone question her? No. I am glad that atleast this way she will be able to battle her anemia, but the reason is not concern for her, but that she reach full production capacity as soon as possible.
And it is not just a child they want – it is a son. Girls do not count for much in this society, being regarded as byproducts of the important business of getting sons. The pair here are a brother and sister who love each other as only siblings can. Their father, when asked about his children, says that he has one son. I wonder what will happen to the boy when he grows up. Will he be more considerate, more appreciative of his daughters? As for the girl, I can only worry.
Chicu lives in Uttarakhand and defines herself as a natural resource manager, traveller, and latent
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