What is it that makes some women stronger than others?
It’s not financial independence alone – because even though Neha Chikkara’s mother was not self reliant, Neha was.
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.