What is it that makes some women stronger than others?

What is it that makes some women stronger than others?

What gave Suranga Date’s illiterate domestic helper the courage to stand by her daughter that Neha Chhikara’s mother so sadly lacked?

It’s not financial independence alone – because even though  Neha Chikkara’s mother was not self reliant, Neha was.

I think its attitude. It’s also the way some of us react to injustice. It’s what Tearsndreams and Shail felt  (and made us feel) when they saw Domestic Violence.

And it’s also how much we were affected by our social conditioning and what kind of conditioning we were subjected to.

My new maid in Delhi is from Orissa. She is the first domestic helper I have had who is happy.

I heard her explaining to the other maid, (also from Orissa),

Nobody can hit you unless you let them.

She says her angootha-chaap (illiterate) mother sent her to a hostel when she was 5. The ‘hostel’ was actually an orphanage where poor children could also stay.  And it was free.

When she was in class VII, the students had to work for Praudh Shiksha (adult literacy). They left their bags in school and left for the village for an hour of teaching and  here, amongst other older women, she taught her own mother to read and write.

When in High School, they distributed condoms to women who had just delivered.

I told them a woman could say no to a man, it’s her right. But what if the men don’t understand the law?

We also advised them to use Copper T…  and bhabhijee there is nothing wrong with young girls knowing about these things.

We learnt to give tetanus shots and using sanitary pads – just twenty rupees a month a woman can’t spend on herself?”

This was a pleasant surprise.

How do you know that a woman has a right to her own body? They taught this in your hostel, in Orissa?

It’s there in the newspapers also.

When my husband’s sister got married I explained to her about contraception. And I told her husband; she will only have a child when she is also ready for it. It’s her body.

I don’t feel shy in talking about these things. We feel shy and let our life and health be ruined?”

He did not mind when she said all this?

“I told him if he does not like what I say then he should understand that if tomorrow his ignorance causes some complications for our girl then she will come to us only and even when she is married her welfare is our concern.”

Lots of lessons this 30 year old can teach to many of us.

I will be blogging about her a lot more.

More blogs for International Women’s Day here.


39 thoughts on “What is it that makes some women stronger than others?

  1. Amazing!! It would be great if there were more people like your maid. When we talk about woman liberation, these are women who need and deserve it! And seeing them give importance to personal health and hygiene, self-consciousness on when to have babies, and most important…the right to stand up for themselves….is very commendable!! 😀

    Happy Women’s Day dear 🙂


  2. what courage I must say..I would certainly want all these ladies to learn from your maid..applause !!

    Me- The cook had a mark on her face and this one was telling her nobody can hit her unless she lets them. She is the only maid I have ever had who is so sure of herself – she is happy. I hope she is able to help the other one – by giving her some of her emotional and mental strength and clarity of thoughts.


  3. WOW…….What awoman…in true sense and spirit..IHM…u rightly say its the difference in attitude.Am impressed by the fact a woman teaching a woman how to protect oneself….“Nobody can hit you unless you let them.” Her conversation with he sis-in-law is commendable too…Like u so rightly say a simple woman has lessons for so many of us…we celeberate heroes…we also need to celeberate “She heroes”..I wonder if she knows u just celebrated one in this post.

    Me- She is a hero Poonam! I am amazed at her clarity on all such matters. She had amazing people guiding her in her growing years!


  4. Wow! Hats off to her! We do need more lessons from her!

    Me= Yes, Swaram she is amazing!! And you can sense her confidence… she is basically content and sure and brave.


  5. This woman is amazing and so are the people who took care of her…Absolutely amazing…

    Me- I will blog about who exactly did take care of her – let me get more info about this orphanage.


  6. IHM, Congratulations on your maid, and may we get to hear a lot from her and about her !
    In the meanwhile, this :

    Two wild rose bushes
    separated in space,
    though not in time…

    resplendent in
    a landscaped life,
    fussed over,
    on choice nutrition,
    and still
    by wooden splints
    to straighten
    a gutless spine.

    The other,
    trying to root
    in constantly eroded
    courageously facing
    an antagonistic wind,
    difficult bends,
    all the while,
    from the earth,
    the philosophy
    of give and take,
    the lessons
    of hard work and success.

    Its not the color
    in the flower
    ordained by birth,
    but the
    glow of hard work
    on the petal cheeks,
    that makes
    it a
    in a difficult world….

    Me- Beautiful as usual Suranga!! I agree ‘it’s not the colour but the glow of hard work on the petal cheeks that makes it a success’ 🙂


  7. Hats off to the lady!
    As for the answer to your question – I guess it has a lot to do with your growing up years. There will be someone or the other in those years who would have made a lasting impact – be it a parent, a relative, a teacher, or just someone you might not know directly.


    • @Bindu, or it might be just a book you read or even something unknown, something innate in you that makes you think (even when you are not allowed to) and arrive at your own conclusions.


  8. I love this woman! I really don’t know what makes people what they are. I have seen children growing up in exactly the same environment, subjected to the same social conditioning and yet turning out to be opposites, one that accepts injustice, another that questions and a third even inflicting that injustice. That makes me really wonder.
    This woman who is not highly educated or has even moved out of the country or has had exposure to different cultures or regions or books of knowledge is more sensible than many of the better placed ones I have met. What is it that makes her different and stronger??


  9. Fantastic woman – your domestic helper !!! WOW !!!

    Just attitude and clear thinking !!! These kind of people are the need of the hour.

    When so many educated women hesitate to talk abt sanitary pads, condoms, copper-t, this woman is just talking her heart and what she feels is right and healthy for the concerned woman.

    Wish there are many women like her, around !!!!

    A happy Women’s day to you and your maid !!! 🙂


  10. wow! Gr8 to see such women, I just hope more and more educate themselves, become aware and enlightened like your maid… She is a gr8 example and a strong women… All women are strong, just that for some the strength comes out in unexpected ways… in the form of fierce love, protectiveness, and some in the language and actions… But education not literacy brings in change…

    Waiting to here about her more IHM…



  11. You know I prefer to read these sorts of positive stories of incredible clarity…they’re so uplifting than too many sob stories that make us feel we have no power. If a supposedly down-trodden woman can teach us all this…there’s so much hope for women everywhere. Perfect post for Women’s Day IHM!

    Me= Thank You starsinmyeyes… yes I also like to read stories where there is some solution also… but then some problems seem to have no solutions 😦 and one must discuss to reach some conclusion or at least create awareness…


  12. hats off to the maid.
    she has more guts than so many of the educated, modern women who go on suffering and let their body be used mercilessly and without any emotions by their husbands.
    A perfect example of Woman of today.
    we just talk and blog about issues
    but here is one woman who thinks and does what we only write about
    three cheers for such inspiring examples


  13. Pingback: Why I did not do a post on Women’s Day : Weaving a Web

  14. You think it’s my scars that make me relate to your pain,
    You think it’s my poverty that keeps me sane,
    But behind that thinking of yours lies a truth,
    That I have an educated unbaised and practical mind which you often refer to as uncouth!!!!

    How have we come to confuse the illeterate with the uneducated! it’s their pracitical education that makes people like you maid strong – whom we literate ones often dimiss as failure on our education index!

    Awesome post!


  15. Pingback: The reason I did not do a women’s day post : Weaving a Web

  16. Why only a domestic help? Why is it that all the women are told this when they are growing up.
    They say strong women make a strong nation but then why don’t we allow women to become that!


  17. I run a campaign ‘The 50 Million Missing’ — fighting female genocide in India. That is the question I constantly ask? People say — educate the woman, give her a job — that will empower her to leave. And it doesn’t. I find that many poor women work and earn — because they think that that money will keep their husbands around (even if he is abusive) and will prevent their inlaws from throwing them out!! There are women working as sex workers, domestic help, etc. who put all their earnings in their father’s or brother’s or sons name — and eventually end up homeless and penniless! There are women who could buy and sell their husbands 10 times over and never leave. What is quite clear is that for many of these women the married status is for them the highest social status they can have. Even if the husband is abusive. Even if the husband tries to kill them!

    What they need the guts for is to stand up to the social stigma of being a divorced or separated woman in India. And be proud of it!

    Do sign our petition at http://www.50millionmissing.in

    Me- I admire and support your inspiring campaign.

    I agree with you Rita, the cultural pressure to get married and stay married even if it kills them, is what makes Indian women so afraid of taking a stand 😦

    The same pressure ruins the lives of thousands of young women, and doesn’t let thousands more be born.


  18. Pingback: International Women's day - Blog posts about Women and relevant issues

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