Rural India for our urban population is nothing more than an escape from the hustle and bustle of the cities. The calmness, the peace and tranquility, the simplicity of villages sooth us to the core and revitalize us. In addition to this the exotic food, greenery, farms and village settlements please us. The beauty strikes us with all its warmth and affection. We admire everything about the villages in India, yet fail to look at the lifestyle these very people are living especially the women over there. There are enormous differences between the urban and the rural life. One of the major difference is the standard of living of rural and urban India. Other differences could be seen in healthcare facilities, education, houses, water resources, development schemes and other welfare schemes.
70% of Indian population lives in rural areas. It contributes a big chunk to the Indian GDP through agriculture, constructions, self-employment etc. yet their standard of living and the basic amenities they are provided with are bare minimum from the government of India. Farmer suicides, starvation deaths, infant deaths due to poor medical care, malnutrition, acute poverty, harassment by landlords, discrimination on the basis of caste and religion altogether form grounds for the exploitation of poor peasants.The conditions of women even are even worse. In some communities, girls are married early in their childhood or teenage. Women, so strong a word, it also depicts the completeness of of a human being. It has such strength that say it in any language, the intensity it produces in hearts and minds is compelling in magnitude, and of course the endurance that comes with it.
Sadly, in our country, when a farmer commits suicide, it’s the wife who suffers the most due to her husband’s death; when an infant dies of poor medical care, again it’s the woman who suffers the the loss of her motherhood; when a child dies of malnutrition, it is the woman who has lasting impact of the loss; when a peasant fails to pay the debts to his landowner, his wife/daughter is raped or passed through similar kind of atrocities. Aren’t these situations non-erasable and lasting stains on humanity? Where does so much of tolerance to endure such agonies come from? Behind their meek and demure elegance there are several stories of sacrifices, deprivation and forbearance of deviant and social evils. Article 17 of Indian Constitution is Abolition of Untouchability, and it states that “Untouchability is abolished and its practice in any form is forbidden. The enforcement of any disability arising out of Untouchability shall be an offence punishable in accordance with law.” Yet it is practiced and women who are so-called untouchables undergo constant torment in the form of sexual harassment, the reports of which are either hidden from the masses because the exploitation goes unnoticed and unreported.
We who live in cities and metros, are unaware of the sacrifices made by them in order to provide us with the luxury we so enjoy. Their major occupation being agriculture, the food that we eat is produced by them. What do they get in return? or put it this way, what do they expect iin return? Absolutely nothing! They are do not even get the dues necessary for their labor. They are even unaware of their rights that are declared in the the Constitution of India well as in CEDAW (Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women) of UN human rights. They remain uneducated for entire parts of their lives and even if schools are built, under the government scheme, there are no good sanitary facilities and teachers are not considerate. And hence, girls avoid going to schools. Things don’t end there, women have to walk miles to fetch water for their household chores. They are either busy performing their household chores or helping their husbands with farming works.
Fortunately, people are becoming aware of plights of women in villages through the consciousness of brains behind certain adverts like Idea mobiles and a VISA debit ad; wherein a woman comes to a village in Rajasthan and is taken aback by women neglecting schools and going to fetch water to some other village. The lady orders sewing machine through her VISA debit card and the girls and women there learn stitching clothes and go to fetch water leaning- ABCD. This particular ad has a nice message on education of women, the lady says, ” ladkiyan school nahi jaa sakto, toh school toh ladkiyon ke paas aa sakta hai nah?”
That was just about the virtual awareness, but there are real heroes too who act like a bridge and cement the gap between people and government. These are the people working in NGOs or the NGOs working in collaboration with government to supplement to the needs of the people. These are organizations like George foundation in Bangalore, Maharashtra prabhodhan Seva Mandal (MPSM) in Nasik and social activists who provide community help and spread awareness. Having worked closely with a collaborative program of MPSM at college last year, I got to learn more about women in rural area and this is how my attachment grew with the rurals. MPSM does a great job in educating women in tribal areas of NASIK where there is no electricity or enough supply of water. The women are educated through various programs of MPSM and stay at the boarding school or learn through the tutors who reach out to them and when they are learned enough, pass on this knowledge to the younger generation. These women are in the age group of 18-30 and also work in farms to help support their families. It’s like you educate a woman and you build a nation.
Jawaharlal Nehru once said, “You can tell the condition of a nation by looking at the status of its women”. How true this is! I strongly wish there are more NGOs that are working towards the empowerment of women in Rural India and that they are made aware of their moral rights and fundamental Rights. Rural women play an important role in supporting their households and building communities, generating income and yet undergo pressingly repetitive structural obligations that prevent them from enjoying their liberty at fullest.