Our Response to COVID-19

“They Just Empowered Me!”

As part of our commitment to empowering women through sanitation awareness and toilet building in rural villages, AMMACHI Labs has sent several team members to experience the village. Radhika Mohan sat down with a few women from Byse, Karnataka for a short, enlightening peek into their lives. Here is her account:

Radhika sits down with the women for a frank discussion.

“No, No…… We can’t do it alone, it’s too heavy. If you want you can do it and if the ring breaks you will be responsible to build new one!”

Literally a war was going on, when I entered into Pavithra’s house. I had to raise my voice… “Can I have half an hour with you all? Just to get to know you and have a short interview?”

“Okay. Only half an hour! We have work to do at the field and then at home”.

Of course, I was expecting such an answer from these strong women. I was in Byese, Karnatatka, a land which gave birth to great women like Kittur Chennamma, Abbakka Chowta, Keladi Chennamma and Onake Obavva who won’t get intimidated by anyone.

I proceeded to sit down and ask a few questions:

Radhika: “ I have been to many places and have seen many women from different communities. It’s amazing to see the most beautiful, self content and happy women in front of me. What is your secret?”

The room quietened and I got their attention…they stopped all arguments and started giggling, they were a bit shy yet glowing.

Mamta and Yashoda: “We work hard day and night in summer, monsoon, winter….every day without laziness that makes us happy and beautiful.”

Radhika: “What is your ambition or dream in life?”

Few minutes silence started whispering. Few moments of silence and unanimously they asked, Madam, what is your dream tell us that first then we will tell ours. Once I answered their question each of them replied.

Unanimous Answer: Everything revolves around our children, we wish to provide them with proper education. Our dream is for healthy happy children.

Radhika: Would you like to continue your education and complete basic education?

Anupama and Savitha: Our family won’t let us finish our studies. Our life of freedom was over by our mid 20s. We live for our children and family now.  Even if you provide facilities we can’t convince our family members to allow us to finish it.

Radhika: What do you think about modern women?

Sukanya and Savitha: Modern women should learn to balance personal and professional life.

Radhika: What’s your opinion about the increased rate of disputes and divorces?  What qualities should be there in women to avoid all these?

Sukanya, Anupama, Pavithra, Mamta: Lack of understanding is the root of all issues. The only quality women should possess is the ability to sacrifice. Sacrifice the “I” word from  you once you are married. Thinking of the other person before oneself. Mutual respect.

Radhika: How have television, serials and cinema changed your lifestyle?

Sukanya and Savitha: We watch everything and we are sensible enough to accept the positive part and discard the negatives.

Radhika: Why does rape happen? Is it right to blame women for this?

They replied with a question to Johanna (an intern at our Live-In-Labs program from EPFL).

Byse Women: “Does your country has this many rape cases and what is the ultimate punishments in other countries?”

Johanna: Yes it exists but the culture is very different.

Sukanya: Both men and women not to be blamed because one should understand that men have unsteady/vacillating mind. Women can protect themselves wearing short skirts and invite unnecessary attention. Inappropriate clothing should be banned.”

Unanimous: About AMMACHI Labs, we find the that you have very good intentions and the sessions are useful.

We began to wrap up as the women were getting late and my half an hour was over. With a thank you note we left from Pavitra’s house.

I could see how dignified they are, how strong and courageous to say and follow what they believe.

Most of them have not completed their basic education but that did not make them backward or inferior to anyone. They are happy and satisfied with the life they have. Their beauty, intelligence and bravery makes us question our own self-confidence!

Here’s a quote which pretty much summarizes the women of Byse Village:
“There is a stubbornness about me that never can bear to be frightened at the will of others. My courage always rises at every attempt to intimidate me.” (Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice)

They just empowered me!!!

-Radhika Mohan
Marketing, PR and Design Associate, AMMACHI Labs

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