When I decided to go to the rural and tribal parts of India there was a special thing I wanted to find out: Who are these women living there? What is in their mind? How does life look, what do they think and feel, what are their thoughts? What do they perceive and think when that German woman in strange clothes and a different body language is sitting in front of them? That strange woman who cannot even pronounce well one single word of their language, but comes along with sunglasses, watch, photo and smart phone, continuously asking strange questions – about things that are normal? What do they know about the developed world, about Europe, Germany, our problems and challenges? Are they interested in it? How does their world look? Which are their dreams?
These blog contributions called “from woman to women” just want to show a very few aspects of female life in India and it is based on personal experiences only. However, for me it is one of the most fascinating aspects during this travel.
Sandhya, the power woman
I have met her, Sandhya, the first time during a hygiene awareness workshop. She might be around 25, 26 years old.*1
She is a small and very energetic person. She – as about 70% of her tribal women selfhelp group (SHG) members can write and read. But she knows much more than others about the outer world. She talks even a simple, but enough English: a rare thing among the tribal women who live most of their time in the mountains in the villages. She is curiously watching at me, observing, but it takes not too long and she takes the initiative, she starts talking to me. She takes my hands and shows me things she is wearing, tries to explain – about herself, the SHG and her ambitions. She wants her SHG to become successful. ”We need to go forward with our women meetings and our first income driving activities. So, one day, we can get loans, take more trainings, learn. With every step we do we are more accepted by our husbands, as well.” She is a visionary. Beyond the world she lives in. Most of the women want to start animal farming, some are dreaming of a grocery shop. She wants to learn tailoring. Creating and designing. She wants to set up a service-driven activity – this is different from what I have seen and learnt so far within tribal self-help groups.
She wants a photo with me and her only. It feels as she wants to bridge from one world to another. When we all come together for a group photo she takes my smart phone and click, click – she makes a photo. It seems it is not the first time that she handles a smart phone although tribal people have mostly just mobile phones, the traditional Nokia ones. She wants me to stay on this photo. It feels to me as if she wants it as a symbol for her visionary idea. I tell her that I will send her a printed one. She asks me to visit her village. She wants that her SHG members know me – and that I bring the photo along.
This lady is a real power women. I am sure she will meet her goals.
*1 By the way, estimating the age of Indian women is rather difficult – 30 years old women look like 15, 55 old women like 70 years old women…