March 8 is celebrated as International Women’s Day the world over. It is all about acknowledging women power, and empowering the strong population unfortunately referred to as the ‘weaker sex’. It is a day when women are supposed to be recoginsed for their achievements. The idea is also to promote participation of women as equal partners with men in all aspects of life.
Has the idea of empowerment reached all women, especially those who need it the most?
This Women’s day, Thestatesman.com spoke to some “working women” to know their views. These women work as daily wage labourers across the city. Some of them shared their stories with us, some admitted to never having heard about Women’s Day, and some spelt out the wishes they wanted to be granted.
Kandai, from ITO’s Anna Nagar
Kandai was cutting wood from a tree near the Pragati Maidan Metro Station, when this writer caught up with her.
“Tomorrow is Women’s Day; do you know anything about that?”
Replying to this question, she said: “I am a poor woman, who as you can see is cutting trees here for fuel to cook. I don’t know anything about it. But if there is such a thing, it should help women.”
“I don’t have any expectations,” she insisted.
Kandai does not have a ration card. Asked if she knew about the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana under which she could apply and get an LPG connection, she said: “No, I don’t know anything about that. Why don’t you help me get one? Do you know anyone who can help me get one?”
Prempati and Meena from Princes Park
Prempati too didn’t know about Women’s Day.
“It sounds good, though,” she said with a smile.
“Acha hai( Its good),” Meena added laughingly.
Prempati had something more to say: “All I want to say is that no matter how rich you are, or how poor, there should be basic facilities for everyone. We all learn from each other. The women of my generation have worked very hard, things are changing now. I have five girls, and one son. It was very difficult to bring them up. There is so much price rise, it’s very difficult.”
Meena chipped in: “Kya ameer kya garreb (Whether rich or poor), all children are a part of their mothers. They are a part of their mother’s body. The same children then grow up and grow apart. All my children are settled and earning, I am fine…”
Aarti, domestic help working in a Tilak Marg apartment building
Women’s Day does not excite Aarti, who has been working as a domestic help all her life.
“Zindagi kat gayi, ab toh bas tanhai hai, ab kya kehna reh gaya hai (I am at the fag end of my life, it’s just loneliness now, what’s there to say),” she said.
Aarti said her husband worked in the “Home Ministry”, and he was an alcoholic. “I raised my kids on my own. I get his pension fortunately, one of the many good things after his death.”
Aarti started working “ever since my husband started to beat me and refused to share his income with me”.
She is thankful to have found work in the building. “This building has given me everything. I have brought up my kids on the earnings from here, married them off.”
Aarti is happy and content, having led an “honest life”. “I have never stolen, always eaten off my hard work, and have been self sufficient.”
She has seen a lot of famous people in the apartment building located in the heart of the national capital. “Vyjayanthimala, Dilip Kumar, Manoj Kumar, Dharmendra… There would be parties.”
Manju from Dilshad Garden
Women’s Day or no Woman’s Day, every woman has her fate and duties charted out, feels Manju.
She takes pride in the fact that he does not have to financially depend on anyone else.
“I have always been self-dependent. Earlier I earned for my sister-in-law’s kids, now I earn for my own kids. It’s a cycle for every woman out there, I can say that for sure. I reach home at 8 pm, do all the household work, put my kids to bed, and then the same cycle begins the next day at 5 in the morning. But, you know what, I am happy.”
“Zyaada ki ummeed nahi hai, kum main hi theek hai….”(I don’t expect too much, am happy with a little) Manju says.
She is content that she can afford “murga-roti” (chicken and chapatti) once a week.
Sridevi, GTB Nagar
Sridevi doesn’t know anything about Women’s Day.
“I don’t know anything. I am a simple woman, who works very hard to make ends meet.”
She, however, know there are “some schemes” for women like them.
“Somebody once told me to apply for pension, but they said I should go to some place called Gulabi Bagh. I don’t know where that is. And who has time? I work all day, and in the evening when I go home, I am very tired,” she says.
When asked if it’s a good idea to keep a day in a year to celebrate womanhood she said,” Well, the day I get my pension, I will celebrate that day.”