We forget often the thousands of women in villages still suffering due to patriarchy and lack of education. Here’s why their voices are important.
The modern Indian woman is the catalyst for the transition of the Indian society. She rose from the cloister of a male dominated society by dismantling the shackles of archaic gender roles.
Entering into the collective consciousness of people this new face of Indian women is a testimony to their long battle against patriarchy. However, a separate reality which is rescinded out of mainstream India is the condition of around 400 million rural Indian women.
Most of the women residing in villages are not even aware of the battle going on for the problems they are subjected to on a daily basis. They are coerced into believing their secondary status against men, which sits in their psyche in a way that they don’t realise the injustice done to them.
I have closely observed the plight of these women, since I hail from a small village situated some 100 kilometres away from Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh. As a privileged woman who studied at a reputed university at a metro city, these observations were not only startling but ironic.
The economic disparity between rural and urban India is massive and is considered to be an alarming issue. While many policies and schemes are being made by the government, there are no substantial results. Particularly for rural women, issues like lack of toilets and menstrual hygiene are serious constraints in the betterment of their overall health.
Sanitary napkins are a luxury for them, hence they mostly rely on substandard substitutes like cloth. But other than being extremely unhygienic, and posing threats of infections, cloth also hinders their work. Since most of the women are agricultural labourers, they need to have great physical strength and flexibility of movement.
Moreover, the taboo around menstruation makes it even difficult for these women to talk about the issues surrounding them. Hence, they suffer the agonies in silence, with no complaints and no help.
Women in rural India are hardly given an opportunity to be in an authoritative position, be it in their houses or the village, as a whole. The decision making power is mostly in the hands of male members of the family, while women are expected to quietly follow.
Unfortunately, the face oppression is moulded into virtues and morals. Women are dominated to the extent that they forget they too have a voice. Their opinions are mostly dismissed and their choices rarely asked for. This is no foreign concept to women living in urban India but the difference lies in awareness.
Women in rural India are oblivious to the fact that they are oppressed. They do not know that a “voice of our own” is something women all over the globe are fighting for. Hence they have silently accepted it as a way of life.
An unmarried girl of 18-20 years is considered to be getting late for marriage in rural India. Often, they are married even before they complete their schooling because marriage attains social status. Remaining unmarried is seen as queerness. Therefore, rural parents prefer to marry their girls early to avoid the societal complications of marriage later.
More than that, there lies no room for choice as to whom they will marry. The practice of early marriage also devoid those girls of a choice about their own sexual and reproductive health. Along with cultural factors, poverty and lack of education are also responsible in augmenting the practice.
Though girls are enrolled in schools, most of them fail to make it till the end. They are either married off or told that the education they have is enough for a woman. Many rural parents believe that educating a son will pay them off as he will be an asset to the family. At the same time, educating a daughter is draining money as she eventually has to get married.
Parents would rather save the money for her dowry. In my own village, ours is the only family where women are studying beyond a certain grade and are also working.
Schemes like “Beti bachao, beti padhao” go in vain if the society doesn’t lend a hand. Becoming a global power will remain a hopeless dream if India doesn’t work to raise its literacy level parallel to the standards of at least a developing nation.
Sequestered within the four walls of their houses, these women are living anonymous lives, as marionettes in the hands of a patriarchal society. The social and political emancipation of women from the long history of oppression confines itself to those who are a part of this movement. But somewhere we are forgetting there are women who deserve to be heard and seen as much as us.
Picture credits: Pexels
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20. I am pursuing English Literature from Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi. I come from
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