“Madam, dekha aapne?” giggling
The organization I am placed at as an India-Fellow, works with the migrant labourers, especially those from vulnerable tribal communities. Our footfall is in the rural settlements of almost entire Southern Rajasthan, where we provide benefits in-kind to the people residing there.
My job is to work with the women of one such community, under ‘Family Empowerment Program,’ the simple objective of which is to empower the labour and migrant communities in such a way that they’re able to identify their real problems, rationally, ask for their rights and achieve what they potentially deserve. The main foci of this program are the women. As to make a living; the men out-migrate, whereas the mothers, wives and daughters are usually left behind.
In the most common fashion, men go out to work and women stay back home to perform their daily chores and at the end of the day, men return home and the cycle continues. On contrary here, with migrants, men don’t comeback for a long period of time. And this community that’s identified at the lowest order of societal hierarchy becomes a victim under the hands of other. The basic needs like food, water, shelter, education and health are deprived from this community to a great level. All these family responsibilities fall on the shoulders of the women, who most of the times don’t even get full ration or have to wait in a long queue or even get harassed by the authority, Gram Panchayat doesn’t always approve their pensions, postmaster takes away his unauthorized share from their pension every time he goes to a different house and the list goes on.
All what Aajeevika does is “Unki Samajh Badhana.” Every hamlet has a group (Ujala Samooh) of around 20-22 women with a leader (Ujala Kiran). This community is under the darkness of unawareness and Aajeevika tries it’s best to provide them the light, with Ujala Kiran being the prime accomplice on this, like the name suggests – a ray of light. We provide her with skill trainings that she later passes on to her group mates, which ultimately works as a larger scheme of capacity building. We often take them out to meet different officials, make them visit different departments, in order to educate them regarding the governance system and their role in a wider ecosystem of it.
“Madam, dekha aapne?” giggling
Rani bai noticed a few eyes staring at her during our visit to the Collector’s office, “Madam, dekha aapne?” She whispered with a giggle in my ear while pressing my hand. These women usually grab each others’ hands to make one another attentive or to have a sense of togetherness, a sense of belonging or protection – these gestures might also be seen at other places but I have never seen this in urban areas though, and for whatever it may be worth, now I am used to it.
I returned my gaze upon those eyes, it turns out that they were neither leaching nor staring, they were just curious. If it’s not our messed up hair or broken chappals or dresses, then for sure it was the movements of our hands that bought their attention. I noticed them noticing our wrists; there were neon-saffron coloured ribbon tied around our wrists, a colour with a new definition: leadership.