For me while growing up I never questioned why it was my mother who had to cook and clean the house after returning back from her hospital duty (both my parents were doctors in the same medical college) and my father had to take rest after a hard day’s work. I never questioned my father’s anger when my mother’s sindur (at that time sticker bindi’s were not very popular) melted of in her sweat and my father’s friends jokingly pointed it out to my father. I remember the fight in my parent’s room, and my mother’s tear stained face scratched and her glass bangles broken. After that incident my mother swore off sindur and glass bangles and despite my father’s pressure and taunts she never wore it. Today sitting in a room full of people fighting against patriarchy and masculinity through the Samajhdar Jodidar Project of UNFPA, those childhood memories flooded back. I also grew up in a similar environment and I think most of us, may be all of us grew up in an environment where a women’s dignity was measured by what she wore, who she talked to, how she behaved and how submissive she was.
The Samajhdar Jodidar project touched that raw wound that I had been carrying since my childhood. Here I was sitting in a roomful of men, women, young women and young men who are struggling and fighting the same fight that my mother fought so many years ago. The stories shared by them are not very different. Neeta one of the facilitators of the project spoke of how during the One Billion Rising event young boys shared stories of how they eve teased and sexually harassed young girls in the adjoining villages, any particular reason for doing it, not really; everybody else had done it. Was it wrong? Now they think probably it was wrong, but when they did it back then they did not think there was anything wrong in doing it. Women abused and beaten up by the husband because she talked with a male member in her village. Was it wrong, the husband felt at that time that it was wrong of his wife and this was pointed out by the women members in the family too; so there was a need to control the wife’s “promiscuous” behaviour. You can keep questioning this and keep asking yourself why, but then the answer is the same; women have been the easiest to dominate, and this domination starts from within the home and family. I love the fact that Samajhdar Jodidar Project has found the right place to start their work and that is within the family where girls learn to be their mothers and boys learn to be their fathers; where girls learn to be submissive and docile and tolerate pain and humiliation and boys learn to be perpetrators of violence; where men believe that violence is their birthright and where women believe that men have the right to do what they want.
I also loved hearing the story of change; a father repenting for abusing and physically beating his five daughters and wanting to change his behaviour so that they remembered a father who cared and loved them. A husband willingly sharing household chores with his wife as he believes that he equally is responsible for household work. A boy of 17 standing up against eve teasing and sexual harassment believing that it was wrong and below the dignity of a woman to be harassed just because she is a girl. A young man for the first time taking his wife on his motor bike, not caring what neighbours said. These stories inspire you and you want to hear more of these stories, this is how it should be. I love the work that I am doing through this project and I love the voices that I hear now….. It is inspiring!