Imagine a village. The picture you will paint in your mind will comprise of lush green fields, a freshwater pond with cows grazing nearby, houses made of mud in which children are playing, a tree under which all the old men are sitting and playing cards, and women treading along the road with pots on their heads. Now, probe a little deeper. Along with forming this picturesque landscape of a village, you might have formed stereotypes about the people: their practices, behaviour, norms, etc. I did the same when asked to picture a village. The words that immediately popped up in my mind when I thought of the villagers were orthodox, conservative and rigid. I thought gender discrimination is something so ingrained in their minds they wouldn’t even realize they are practicing it. Women are oppressed in every possible way. They are not included in the decision-making process at homes.Their consent is not taken while getting them married.
During the Induction Training, I got a chance to verify my stereotype. The activity included going to a village, talking to people and checking whether the stereotype upholds or overturns. I went to Badi Gaon ready to see the village through a different ‘lens’. I started talking to women. From meeting people who would outright deny talking to meeting people who would offer me tea and snacks, I had a lot of interesting conversations. But one that stood out the most was my interaction with Prama Ji, a post-graduate in Political Science. She told me that though her parents didn’t even allow her to meet her husband before marriage, she wouldn’t want to deny her daughter the right to marry when she wants. This made me hopeful. I felt elated at having my stereotype broken. But as I continued walking towards the interiors of the village, I realized conversations differed when caste came into play. Sona Bai told me that most of the girls in her community are married off at a very young age. I felt appalled.
This whole experience made me cognizant of my unawareness towards the complexity of the issue . I was angry, shocked, confused and sad all at once. The situation of women seems to be improving but we still have a long way to go.