Courage Knows No Gender

Kamala Bai is a Dalit Sarpanch in the village of Magneri in a district of Madhya Pradesh. Since the seats in Gram Panchayats have a reservation of 50% for women, she won the elections by a 100 votes. Her husband has studied till twelfth standard and she calls herself uneducated.  An NGO helped her in getting information on the finances and the working of the panchayat. Once she started work, she wanted the women in the village to participate in the Gram Sabha. She wanted them to speak up and have an equal opportunity in stating their views on matters related to the village. She said and I quote, “The Gram Panchayat should take care of the village like it is their own child. When people have issues do they go to the Prime Minister or the Sarpanch to resolve their problems?” She questioned on the things which didn’t seem right and got the administration to take note of it. She also fought with lawyers who asked for bribes and the village rowdies who participated in illegal activities. Her husband supported her at every step of the way. 

Despite all of the amazing work which Kamala Bai did for the village, she was still powerless. How you ask? When she went for training to different cities, she had to be accompanied by her aunt cause people in the village made comments on her integrity and even shamed her husband. She had to fight to get the decision making power as the men in the panchayat thought what could a so called Dalit woman even do?

I’m sure you’re thinking that this is the same old story of every woman. They suffer. They resist. They fight. They give in or is some cases, demand for equality. They speak up, they drive campaigns for the world to see the complete picture, they stand up. But, can you see the fundamental problem in our thinking? Are you as confused as I? Well, good. This article will now make sense to you.

As human beings we have been conditioned to not question. To be accepted, we conform to the existing societal construct cause otherwise everything will require additional effort. The effort to have that conversation with your mother on how happy she is about giving up her career for her family; the discussion with your wife on why she is so willing to take care of all your needs; feeling the pain and discomfort your sister goes through during menstruation every month; the consciousness of your girlfriend about her body and the mental exhaustion of them all to feel unheard and powerless in most situations of life. We get conditioned to the mainstream adulteration of values without even thinking about it. We talk, we nod, we judge, we move on. Are we doing the right thing? Is it fair? Are we even asking ‘Why?’ 

Why are Women doing this?
Why do They need to do this?
Why do We need to address it now?

When Kamala Bai can realize that God created us all the same; that the blood which runs in all our veins is red; that the entire dichotomy of gender and caste began in our societies – why are we unable to recognize each other as a human first? As individuals, communities and a nation why are we providing a breeding ground for indifference, discrimination and adversity?

I’m aware that I haven’t given any answers, instead have asked the same old questions. Those who know me well will know the rebel in me and my struggle growing up in an orthodox and patriarchal society that put me down at every step. From family, friends and teachers to every aunty in the colony who had no business interfering in my life has played a crucial role in perpetuating the power dynamics that exists between men and women. I have shouted and fought and questioned till I cried "Why me?" And believe me, I still haven’t asked enough. But today I choose to stop. Stop asking the questions to expect any answers from others. Kamala Bai knows the answers. I know the answers. We all do. And no matter what the answer or the action, none of it will ever be enough. But I want to start now and will urge each of you to do the same. Start accepting yourself, finding your own answers, supporting others in finding theirs, providing clarity to the confused minds and raising our voices together in support of humanity.

When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change” ~ Wayne Dyer. No development will ever happen if we are not redefining success of a country considering the other half of its population too and changing conversations on gender issues. 

We have also asked too many questions. When are we making time to answer them and take action is what will make all the difference. Do you have the courage to do it?

Signing Off,
Nitsy

Image 1 Credits: Rutgers International
Image 2 Credits: ScoopWhoop

P.S. - The names of people and the village in the story have been changed to respect their privacy and identity. 



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