Eliminating The Dogmas behind the Socializing of Rural Women

Updated: Oct 8, 2021

While working at Bharat Rural Livelihoods Foundation, Chhavi discovered her work in Sahariya community, an Adivasi community in Madhya Pradesh. Her team was conducting an awareness campaign during the ongoing pandemic and seasonal migration. Though, due to the second wave of COVID-19 induced lockdown, the project unfortunately came to a halt. Despite this, she had an experience she will cherish all her life. Let's hear her story....

What my journey in a semi-dry region has taught me can never be learned through books. The experience of living with these women was so peculiar that sometimes goes beyond my imagination. Through books, I have always learned that women in rural parts of India are vulnerable, uneducated, and have no social life. But my stay at a small village Agara in Madhya Pradesh showed me the other side of the picture. These women maybe not having resources that I have, their life is much harder than mine but they are happy, they are much more connected to each other, they know each other. Yes, they live in vulnerable conditions, they go to collect fuelwood, they work in their fields for a whole day, they walk miles to fetch water, but they do not complain as much as I do. They found their joy walking miles with other women, talking, laughing, collecting NTFPs. They happily walk miles into the deciduous forest and find the perfect soil (clay), so that they can decorate their houses during Diwali.

A sketch of tribal women in Madhya Pradesh by Chhavi Bathla

This particular portrait/ drawing was made based on an early morning field visit, because in summers due to extreme heat it’s hard to work after 10 in this region. They were not just doing the household chores but were also socializing with other women of the neighborhood. With no cell phones, internet or any technology around these little gatherings in their village is the only source of interaction among them. They discuss families, friends, share their problems, and much more during these interactions. Their shy laughter beneath their veil (ghoonghat) and a sudden halt on that if an elder from the village passes near them. Sometimes introductions or teasing to the newly married also happen in these gatherings. Those new brides are not just welcomed but also are introduced to the culture, problems, and the little joys of the village during such interactions. Not just the women but the girls are also introduced to or taught about the different aspects of life during these interactions. Therefore, what I can see through this picture might be different from your perspective but these women are living their destined life to their fullest.

Why I love being on the field is because of the people like Maya didi, whom I met during the lockdown, when I was stuck in UP. Here is a song which she sang for me. The song is about a wife is convincing her husband to go back to the village.

"During this lockdown which has happened because of this epidemic let’s leave this city and go back to our village. We will grow food in our fields. We will dig a small pond there and will do fish culture. Dear, let’s leave this city. We will grow coconut on the sides of our pond. We will decorate our cowshed with Jersey Cow. We will sell milk and ghee “purified butter” in the market, dear let’s leave this city. We will grow ladyfinger in our fields. We will grow wheat, and sauf “Anise” and jeera “Cumin” on the border of our fields, but let’s leave this city. We will grow shimla “capsicum” on machan “a raised platform in fields”. When we will clean the wheat, its husk will spread all around. After selling Rabi crops, I will buy laal chunariya “red stole”, dear let’s leave this city. We will sell milk and ghee “purified butter” in the market, dear let’s leave this city. Papiha “Hawk-cuckoo” is sitting on the Peepal tree while koyal “cuckoo” is singing a sweet melody. " [ The song is in the video]

About the Author:

Hi, my name is Chhavi Bathla. I completed my masters in 2019 in Environment and Development from Ambedkar University, Delhi. For my master’s dissertation thesis, I worked with the Sahariya community of Madhya Pradesh, to understand their customary rights over the forest present in the vicinity of their village. This work of mine got selected for the Third Biennial Conference of the Political Ecology Network (POLLEN). After my graduation, I worked with Bharat Rural Livelihoods Foundation (BRLF), an autonomous body under the Ministry of Rural Development, India. There I worked as the Facilitator of Certificate Program in Rural Livelihoods (CPRL) batch V, where I facilitated 30 Adivasi candidates selected from the tribal belt of India. During this tenure, I covered 9 states working with 13 different organizations and understanding their livelihood projects. I am

working at Adharshila School, MP, as a Project Manager for their SAARTHI project. Here, I handled 14 satellite schools that provide education to the first-generation learners majorly of the Sahariya Community. I am very grateful to Professor Asmita Kabra, who introduced me to this region.