BAT WOMEN: Self Made Heroes
Women in Purulia, West Bengal, 2013, December
Women keeping count of their money, and maintaining a close record of girls under 18 whose families are looking to get them married. They plan to go to each of these families and talk them out of it.
A social entrepreneur (incidentally a guy) once told me, ‘Women are immensely resourceful, immensely hard working and immensely entrepreneurial. Just physically weaker. We need a way to rein in bullying and unleash the power and spirit of women”.
Purulia counts among the poorest districts in West Bengal, India. Unrestrained these women attended night classes as part of the National Literacy Mission and learnt how to read, write and do basic math. With the help of an NGO, they formed a Self Help Group (SHG), and turned entrepreneurs, investors, bread-winners and social workers. They run their SHG as a collective, keep a close tab on the collective money they own which they invest in small ventures harvesting potatoes, tomatoes and mustard. When required, they lend it to each other at an interest.
My visit to this village in December, coincided with the harvest season just coming to end. While most men were seen playing cards and gambling, the women were rigorously looking up-cash crop calenders to check what they should be investing (both their money and efforts) in next.
Remember the inane ‘Dehat Aurat’ comment which created such foolery and controversy in India and Pakistan last year? Those who thought it was an insult and especially those who use it as an insult, nothing could be further away from the truth.
By Sharmila Ray