Meeting the secretary of an SHG in a rural Uttar Pradesh changed my idea of what a strong independent woman meant. She taught me what it means to be happy.
This is the story of Barkha- a strong, independent woman I met during my visit to Bahraich, in Uttar Pradesh. She is the secretary of an SHG in Gokhulpur village. The group was formed by Dehat- an NGO that works against child-trafficking in that area.
Though I met several women during the SHG meeting, Barkha stood out. She would participate actively and wasn’t afraid to speak her mind about the issues in the village.
Since I was intrigued by her, I decided to know more about her. To do so, i drew a daily activity chart of her daily routine. I learnt that she wakes up at 4 am and goes to bed by 9 pm. And during her day, she does a number of things. Right from making breakfast and lunch for her family and ensuring that her kids reach school on time to managing the domestic cattle, working for the SHG, sending her kids to tuitions to cooking dinner, she does it all.
Her routine, initially, seemed very normal to me, but I quickly learnt that it wasn’t so. She worked very hard all day long. And as the secretary, she took the responsibility to encourage the other members of the SHG to regularly participate in their initiatives. She also leads and participates in activities that contributed to the development of the village.
After our SHG meeting was done, she took up the initiative of showing us around the village. And it was during this walk that I understood more about her as an individual and a woman.
I learnt that like many of us she has dreams to do meaningful work and to see her children receive proper education. What amazed me about her was her reply to the question “How did you manage to overcome to societal pressure to be the voice of the SHG?”
She replied that “Agar achche kaam karne se ye sun ne ko milta hai, to kaam thodi na rok denge (If people oppose good work, it is not the work that should stop)”
I was surprised to know that her husband’s support has been the biggest driver in helping her achieve confidence and success. She even admitted that she hopes to get married to him in all her seven janams!
Her husband’s support to let her pursue the activities debunked a lot of my preconceived notions about patriarchy and gender. All the while, I had an image of a patriarchal man who spent all his earnings on alcohol, got drunk and beat his wife up. But Barkha’s husband changed that for me.
Meeting Barkha not only challenged my notion of an independent and strong woman— a definition which I now realise was too narrow—but also of patriarchy and gender. I was inspired to meet a woman who is driving change in a village in one of the most backward districts of the country in her own capacity and absolutely loves her life.
Picture credits: Pexels
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