“Meri pariwar waale mujhe aur padhne nahi dete”- an angst of a 18 years girl, who wants continue her study. “Mujhe to apna kuch nahi karna hai, agle saal meri shaadi karwa denge”—a reason for a 17 years girl for not attending entrepreneurship training.
I often hear this kind of feelings from women, when I visit our fields in slum areas of Delhi, where Dhriiti conducts entrepreneurship sessions. Sometimes, I try to know more about their problem and sometimes I ignore because I am helpless to do anything for them. Yes, our society still does not support girl’s education. Our society still believes that girl should not study more otherwise it would be a problem to find a qualified groom for her. We are still in a society where girls are forced to marry before completion of her appropriate age of marriage. When I watched “Parched”, the line “padh sun ke collector banegi kaa” reminds me the line of that girl who wants to continue her study but her parents are not allowing her to study anymore. I asked her to meet her parents to convince them to allow her to study, I even told her to continue her study through distance mode, but her parents are not ready to allow her study at any cost. When I watched “Pinzra tod” campaign, I remembered my university days where we too were not allowed to go outside the hostel premises after 9.30 PM whereas boys did not have any in time.
Although the term “women empowerment” and “feminism” becomes fancy word nowadays, but I too want to use these fancy words to support the issue. If you ask me “do women really need empowerment?”, my answer will be “Yes”, not because we women consider ourselves weak but because the custom and mentality of people of our society are yet weak. People may think that only weaker section need empowerment but my answer will be “women are not weak; they are powerful to deal with any kind of situation, just the society need to recognize her power and existence”.
Again, the concept of women empowerment is vague without their economic empowerment, when I went to a slum areas of West Delhi to meet women of a handmade bag making unit, I asked them the reason why they come to the centre, and I got a spontaneous answer “Mein yahan roj aati hoon, sikhne aur mehnat karke kuch kamane taaki mujhe apne pati se paisa na mangna pade”. Yes, the source of money is a matter of concern for many women in India who are completely depended on their husband’s income. In this kind of case, women are the homemakers, who take care of home, children and in-laws. But, in most of the cases, women are not recognized for their work as they are not making any money out of it. Homemaker profession is not accepted in India yet. But my question is “How girl will get better employment or source of livelihood if they are not allowed to study?” In most of such cases, parents do not allow their daughters to study, because they think they will not get qualified groom for their daughters or they do not want to spend their money on girl’s education as they are compulsorily forced to save money for their daughters’ marriage. On the other hand, husbands do not give equality to their wives in taking decisions relating to household matters, most of the women are not even allowed to go outside without their husband’s permission. They treat their wife as an insignificant piece in their life because their wives are not earning anything.
I am thankful to my host organization for giving me the chance to see these ground realities of the unprivileged ladies of our country. Now, as a part of Dhriiti, I am also trying to bring women empowerment through their economic empowerment.