“अब महिला है ना हमरे साथ”- A Community of Single Women Can Sustain Any Livelihood Opportunity
For any Delhi girl, comfort zones have always been the top priority. We have been so privileged to be the “
आँख का तारा” of our parents. We have been provided with the best of facilities so as to keep our smile intact. After I completed my masters, I was a fresher to this newly offered job role in the social sector in Niiti consultancy as a consultant. Unaware of what I was about to explore and learn, I was given a chance to visit the Marathwada region in Maharashtra as a part of a project.
Marathwada region is one of the poorest regions in the state comprising of 8 districts. All these districts come under the list of 100 poorest districts of the country in terms of its social backwardness and grim poverty. I along with my team of four, visited 4 out of 8 districts, namely, Beed, Osmanabad, Nanded, and Latur to identify the livelihood opportunities for single women out there. These single women were mostly widows, women left by their husbands, older unmarried women. To my surprise, there was a huge number of single women there striving to earn a livelihood for themselves.
The region has been equipped with all possible setbacks posing challenges for livelihood opportunities. It is a drought-prone region hence becoming a major obstacle to agriculture which is the major source of income in the region. It lacks in infrastructure, housing and banking facilities, etc. Not just this, the villages in the district are facing societal barriers, especially for single women above all. In other words, what we might call it as an old town shown in the Bollywood movies, where single women are treated inhumanly. They were abandoned, the villagers and in-laws used to break their bangles, they were not allowed to wear good clothes. Can you imagine what does it take to come out of grief with all those things happening?
Besides the circumstances, they have been the victim of, what is heart-warming to see is that they have realised the importance of their existence. From “मन करताथा, क्या करना जीकर” to “अब कुछ करना है”, these single women are the inspiration for the rest of the society. They locked themselves inside their house for years after the mishappenings due to the fear of society. But before the society could say something, in their opinion they too found themselves ill-fated, blaming themselves for their husband’s death. However, they have come out of the situation gradually, for they say “लोग तो तबभी बोलते थे, अबभी बोलते है”. I remember some of them saying with tears in their eyes “I am still recovering from the pain”.
There has been a whole change in the mindset of these single women. Now they not just work to earn a living but work for the betterment of the society, for other single women like them. They have realised that they have the right to live as an individual and have the right to earn an identity for themselves.
I can’t really say that what could be the best livelihood opportunity for them given the situation of the entire set up, however, I can certainly say that they can do anything with the help of women like them. Every single woman interviewed who was asked for the “what keeps them going?”, they were ready with a statement “अब महिला हैना हमारे साथ”.
I am still working with team Niiti to put together a set of recommendations based on our findings that will help create sustainable livelihoods for the women in Marathwada. I can foresee their pallu of sarees tied with the sparkle and motivation in their eyes, dedicated to earning respect for themselves.
Author – Shivangi Gupta