In the present day, we mostly talk about women empowerment – and at the same time, we quote the examples of women like Kalpana Chawla, PV Sindhu, Mary Kom, Malala Yousafzai, Mother Teresa, Indra Nooyi. It’s to be expected that children born into affluent families will have easy access to luxurious resources and to fame. But what about those women who are born in poor, rural villages and emerge as successful women without getting the luxurious resources that the others may get?
We usually ignore them and their perseverance, but talking about them and giving them more opportunities may solve the persistent problems in our country. In my opinion, in most cases, we don’t want people from rural areas to avail such opportunities. After all, a politician often wins an election in the name of ‘rural poverty’, and the states get a significant chunk of the central government funds for the development of the ‘rural poor’. The NGOs too get funds, often for solving issues pertaining to the people in villages. Media houses also often get pieces of news from the poor masses in rural areas to increase their TRPs.
Now you can imagine what the impact on various stakeholders will be, if the poor people in rural areas suddenly disappear from the country. After all, the richest 1% of the country owns over 90% of the country’s wealth.
“Poverty is not just a lack of money; it is not having the capability to realise one’s full potential as a human being.” – Amartya Sen
In this article, I will be trying to cover a few inspiring women from amongst the rural poor, who are no lesser than any of the famous personalities I mentioned above. This article is a tribute to all those poor rural women who were not born with silver spoons in their mouth but have tried to achieve their dreams through hardwork and perseverance.
A 23-year-old lady, Jyoti Kumari hails from the small village of Bodh Gaya in Bihar. She grew up in a society where the importance and social value of women are defined and acknowledged only through her usefulness and service to her husband.
But, in her case, it was different. She stood her own ground to go out of the village to pursue her studies. She completed her schooling and college by making a daily 10-kilometre walk from her village to Bodh Gaya. She was also able to stand on her own feet after her marriage.
Now, she is working as a micro-enterprise consultant in a startup entrepreneurship project in Jeevika, Bihar. She had never thought before that she would come this far. In fact, during her teenage years, when she was giving birth to her first child, she thought her dreams were ending as the society there didn’t allow a married woman to work outside as long as their husband is alive.
However, there is also a proverb, “A woman is like a tea bag – you can’t tell how much it strong she until you put her in hot water.” Jyoti did not lose her courage and faith in her dreams – and with the support of her husband, she continued her studies. Now, she is a famous personality in Bodh Gaya.
“Pehle log mujhe papa ke naam se jaante the ki wo uski beti hai. Ab mujhe gaon me sab log mere khud ki identity se jante hai – jo mene yahan apne mehnat aur acha kaam kar ke banaya hai (Earlier, people used me to know me only as the daughter of my father. Now, everyone in the knowledge knows me through my own identity – which I have built based on my hard work and good performance)” Jyoti says.
Till now, she has supported and helped 25 micro-enterprises in the villages to get financial and technical support from Jeevika under the Startup village entrepreneurship project. Due to her contribution to the society, she has been an inspiration to the other young ladies in the village. Her dream is to motivate and inspire girls from her village to go to school so that they can become self-dependent women who can earn their own bread and butter for the day without losing their self-respect.
A 32-year-old lady, Rinku Devi comes from a very poor financial background. Her objective in life was very simple – to give a meaningful life to her children. As her husband’s income was not sufficient to sustain the family, she decided to come out in search of a job. This was against the family tradition.
Though she was illiterate and a stranger to the outside world, her zeal to reach her destination led her to get a job in a project run jointly by Jeevika and Solar Urja Lamps (SOULS). The project, initiated by IIT Bombay, aims to enhance school children’s studies (especially during the night), exam preparation, homework and other educational programmes.
Just try to imagine the courage of this lady who had never seen schools in her childhood and had never got the chance step outside her home! She is now standing on her feet and is fully independent. What could be a better example of women empowerment than this?
One can point out that it was the financial crisis that led her to move out and take this bold step. Yes, it is. But, the opportunity and the platform which motivated her, besides giving her the confidence to realise her capabilities and the potential to do something on her own, also played a very crucial role in this.
I believe that distributing awards to a few people in the name of International Women’s Day is not going to solve the bigger problem. Try to come out of your comfort zone and do take a glance at the real scenario in the country.