As A Dalit Woman Sarpanch, Kamla Bai Is The Inspiration Our Rural Women Need

Kamala Bai, sarpanch of a village in MP had to face a lot of discrimination from the people in the village. However, she put on a brave face and pushed ahead.

Kamala Bai, sarpanch of a village in MP had to face a lot of discrimination from the people in the village. However, she put on a brave face and pushed ahead.

Kamala Bai (name changed) is a Sarpanch in the village of Magneri of Madhya Pradesh. Since the seats in Gram Panchayats have a reservation of 50 percent for women, she won the elections by 100 votes.

While her husband has studied till class XII, she calls herself uneducated. She has an NGO helping her access information on the finances and the working of the panchayat. Once she began work, she wanted the women in the village to participate in the Gram Sabha.

She questioned norms and fought against them

As the sarpanch, she wanted them to speak up and have an equal opportunity in stating their views on matters related to the village. She said, “The Gram Panchayat should take care of the village like it is their own child. When people have issues, they come to the Sarpanch to resolve their problems.” She questioned phenomenon and norms that didn’t seem right and got the administration to take note of it. And even fought with lawyers who asked for bribes.

Her husband supported her every step of the way. Despite all of the amazing work which Kamala Bai did for the village, she was still powerless. Whenever she travelled to any other city or village, she had to be accompanied by her aunt. People in her village would make comments about her character and would even go as far as shaming her husband. Since she was elected as the sarpanch, she has had to fight a lot to get the decision-making power. The men in the panchayat were skeptical and judgemental of her abilities as a Dalit woman.

Why don’t we care enough to ask?

By now, I am sure you must thinking that this is the story of every single woman. They suffer, they resist, they fight. In some cases, they give in or demand equality. They speak up, they drive campaigns for the world to see the complete picture, they stand up.

As human beings we have been conditioned to not question. To be accepted, we conform to the existing societal construct because otherwise everything will require additional effort.

The effort to have that conversation with your mother about how happy she is about giving up her career for her family rarely every takes place. Or the discussion with your wife about why she is willingly taking care of you, does that happen? Do you have the consciousness of your girlfriend about her physical and mental exhaustion? These women often feel unheard and powerless in most of the situations in life.

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We just talk, judge and move on. Are we doing the right thing here? Is it fair? Do we even ask, ‘Why’? Why are women doing this? Do they need to do this? And more importantly, why do we need to address this now?

If she can understand, why can’t we?

If Kamala Bai can understand that God created us all equally and the same, that the blood running in our veins is red and that the whole dichotomy of gender and caste began in the society, why can’t we under it too? As individuals, communities and a nation why are we providing a breeding ground for indifference, discrimination and adversity?

Those who know me know my struggle of growing up in an orthodox and patriarchal society that put me down at every step. Right from my family, friends, teachers and even the aunties in my neighbourhood play an in important role in perpetuating in the disparity between men and women. I have yelled, fought, questioned and even cried myself hoarse, ‘Why me?’

We all know the answers, we just need to look

And believe me, I don’t think I still haven’t asked enough. But today, I choose to stop. I have decided to stop asking questions and expecting answers from others. Kamala Bai knows the answers and so do I. And no matter what, none of it will ever be enough.

But I want to start now and urge each of you to do the same. Start accepting yourself, finding your own answers, supporting others in finding theirs. We can provide clarity to the confused minds and raise our voices together in the support of humanity.

No development will ever happen if we are not redefining success of a country considering the other half of its population too. And changing conversations on gender issues.

Picture credits: Pexels

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