Be it the nail-biting cold in winter or the scorching heat of summer, the life remains the same for women in Haryana’s khap land as they have to work hard the entire day to run their households. But despite their hard work like labourers, they are lagging far behind in social and economic empowerment.
From children to cattle and kitchen to fields, all responsibilities have been allocated to women in rural areas of Jind, Sonepat and Rohtak districts. A house wife works for more than 18 hours at house and in the fields to cater to the needs of male members of the family, who need everything on time.
“We wake up before 5am every day to feed and milk the cattle, fetch drinking water and prepare food for the family. After cleaning the house, we load cow dung in the bull cart and leave for fields to bring fodder for the cattle and reach home around noon. Then we feed the cattle and serve meals to the family and in the afternoon around 4pm, we again bring water from hand pumps. In the evening, we again serve fodder to the cattle and prepare meal for the family,” said middle-aged Sewa Devi of Jaijawanti village of Jind district, while sitting on a bull-cart.
“No doubt, the life of women is more difficult in our villages as compared to men. Since our childhood we have learnt that the work is divided among genders, but a majority of males does not work and spends most of the time playing cards,” added Kamla, sitting next to Sewa on the cart with a covered face.
Another villager Anita said, “We don’t want our daughters to live such a life and are providing them education. But all girls cannot be married in cities and many of them will have to work like us in villages.”
‘They never raise their voice’
Santosh Dahiya, professor of physical education at the Kurukshetra University and national convener of Sarv Jatiya Sarv Khap Mahapanchayat, said, “The life of a woman is very difficult in this region as she works day and night to feed the family and cattle. Moreover, these women never raise voice against their exploitation as they think that work for the family is their responsibility while the male members of the family have the sole responsibility of running behind the politicians to ensure government jobs for their children,” she added.
Even as girls and women work hard for the family, people in this region still prefer a son for their progeny and hardly celebrate the birth of a girl child.
The gender bias in Haryana, which is infamous for skewed sex ratio, is reflected in the official statistics as 12 out of the 100 districts with poor sex ratio in the country are from the state alone.
Meanwhile, the women in the state do not foresee any change in their life in the near future. With a sense of resignation, they say they are living like their mothers grandmothers, and their daughters who get married in farmers’ families will have to live the same life.
“Women are living a tough life, but the males do not work and spend most of the time playing cards and running behind politicians to ensure government jobs for their children,” said Capt Mahabir, vice-president of Satrol khap.
“It’s an old issue and nobody raises a voice against it. Even women think that it is their duty to work like this,” he added.
Neerja Ahlawat, assistant professor and director of the Women’s Study Centre at Maharshi Dayanand University (MDU), said, “It is a bitter truth that women are living a tough life in rural areas of Haryana and despite hard work, they do not get any reward and lag behind in social and economic empowerment.”
She added, “They do invisible labour at home and in the fields, but they can’t raise their voice. The girls cannot even tell their family as to whom they want to marry.”
Ahlawat said, “Change is coming with time, but the pace is very slow and it will take several decades to end this discrimination in Haryana.”