Outside their homes they are able to change things. But within the four walls they face stiff opposition. It is the men in their lives — fathers, brothers and even sons — who create problems, often getting violent.
Showcased at a photo exhibition in the Capital, each frame had a story to tell, each face an essay in courage, determined to change the rules of a male dominated society:
In the nondescript town along the Indo-Nepal border in Uttar Pradesh, women are selling condoms to women: “Save yourself from unwanted pregnancies” and the “shaharwali beemari” In other words HIV/AIDS. The women have formed self-help groups and are targeting below the poverty line rural women to buy female condoms. And there are regular training sessions on how to use them. Initial discomfort apart, women are willing customers despite its high price as compared to the latex male version.
Arun Bala, 48, may have studied only up to Class VIII and married when she was 14. No one went to school in her village in Chattisgarh till this mother of six went house to house, motivating people with her slogan, Hum padhenge aur aage badhenge. That apart she was instrumental in enforcing prohibition in her village.
In Jammu, empowered Muslim women from the nomadic and patriarchal Dhodi Gujjar community head for the wholesale milk outlet in town every morning. While the men stay home tending livestock, the women strike profitable deals in dairy trade: selling milk worth 30 million rupees per day.
Determined not to let their children do what they have had to do, they now send their daughters to school. A “revolution of sorts” because 89 per cent of Gujjar women here, between the ages of 10 and 65, are illiterate.
Move over to Bihar’s Begusarai and find 12-year-old Payal Pandit who walks several kilometers daily to swim in clean water. As a child the village pond, where she trained, was bearable. As she grew so did the filth and stench which made it impossible to step into the water. Born to a rural family, Payal braved all odds and reached the state level championships. Like Baby Kumari, whose father is a fisherman. This class VI student qualified for aquatic championships in the state.
What do Payal and Baby Kumari have in common: A dream to reach the nationals.
The roadblock: Poverty and insurgency.