In the man’s world there are many women living in abject negligence and subjugation. When it comes to ‘women empowerment’ or ‘generation equality’ somehow these rural women are overlooked. Most of us see an image of a women all dressed up in formal attire and heels when there is a need of promoting women empowerment. Why do we forget those women who work in the farms and at several unorganized sectors where they do not get paid properly.
In India, women have been fighting for equality since long. In fact it is a fact that they have come a long way, evils like “sati”(burning the wife on husband’s pyre) system and “child marriage” are no longer practised in India, ostracization of widows have reduced and gradually women have started participating in different domains of the workforce. But the villages of India have a different story to tell. The rural culture is way more lethal for the women than the urban culture.
Sharing a personal experience of a five day visit to a village in the district of ‘Siwan’, Bihar. This stay taught me that we forget to thank The Almighty for whatever we have. These rural women have limited needs but still none gets fulfilled. Somehow, even basic necessity is luxury for them. The first thing that wrenched my heart was to see them use tattered worn out piece of cloth as their napkins during their periods. I tried to know why they didn’t use sanitary napkins and the reasons listed by them were really upsetting. Even the young girls who had their menarche were not provided with sanitary napkins or tampons. They said that they have seen their mothers and grandmothers use the most scruffy cloth at home and they were taught to use such kind of cloth because “Menstruation is dirty”. They added to this and said that there is no point spending on pads and tampons because it is difficult for them to make both ends meet. If anything is extra in a month then it goes to the share of the male members.
They said if they developed vaginal rashes or hives they washed it with rice soaked water. These women are barred from entering into temples, touching pickles, sitting on cot and touching holy books during their days of chums. They narrated these things to me as if everything was fine and it was evident that these women lacked the knowledge of menstrual hygiene. Well, not to my surprise they did not even want to have any lecture on the same. They said we visit the doctor only when the situation is awful otherwise we know that with our bare income we cannot afford sanitation.
National Family Health Survey 2015-2016 estimates that of the 336 million menstruating women in India about 121 million (roughly 36 percent) women are using sanitary napkins, locally or commercially produced.
I saw a young girl aged 11 years praying to be blessed with a baby brother. On being questioned she said that we will all be happy if my mother gives birth to a son because he will be the one to carry forward the family’s name. This girl had five sisters and her mother was pregnant with her seventh child. NITI Aayog report by the Indian government reveals that gender imbalance is on the rise in India. Almost 21 million girls in India are ‘unwanted’. The report says that couples keep having children until they have the desired number of boys.
Also Read : The plight of Indian daughters
These women work in farms, at home, in nursery and they get beaten up at the end of the day. Their “Rights” are into oblivion and they are least bothered about their rights and well being. National Family Health Survey (NFHS) data indicate that over 30% of Indian women have been physically, sexually or emotionally abused by their husbands at some point in their lives. These women have accepted everything as their fate. They say that they can’t go back to their parents because their parents won’t accept a married daughter’s return. One of them said that a married women is her husband’s property after the “Kanyadaan” (donation of a daughter by her father to her husband) ceremony. A ceremony which is an integral part of Hindu marriage.
What can really be done for these women?
On this day that is International Day of Rural Women 2020, the first thing that has to be done for them is to acknowledge their grievances. More than 50.0 per cent of the people living in rural India are women. This population is neglected and tortured.
Introduction of menstrual cup to these women shall prove to be a boon for these women. Multi-stakeholder partnerships and collaboration of governments, corporates, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the media and entertainment industry can really play a significant role in helping this cause. There are several on going women welfare schemes to which this initiative can be clubbed. ‘Menstrual Cup’ shall be particularly promoted because these cups are reusable, designed for a long term use and eco-friendly compared to tampons and sanitary pads. A menstrual cup can last up to 10 years. So, once a women is provided with one cup she can be blessed with almost 10 years of menstrual sanitation. They should be given proper instruction to use these cups because these can cause pelvic organ prolapse if women don’t use them correctly. Proper cleaning of the cups shall also be taught to them.
Rural women shall be helped with skill development classes and paid internships. Big companies and firms can really help these women by employment generation. These women are really hardworking and are ready to adjust themselves according to the work demand. And in order to protect these women from domestic violence and any other sort of torture, awareness needs to be spread among the women about their rights. Once they are self reliant they will automatically choose their dignity over several other social elements.