Ritanjali Hastir, Associate Editor, 2nd March, 2019, Shimla
True women empowerment is light years away at the grassroot level and all we have is a rosy sham.
Opinion is the medium between knowledge and ignorance. A wise man makes his own decisions; an ignorant man follows the public opinion. It is not wrong to say that the discovery of truth is prevented more effectively, not by the false appearance things present and which mislead into error, not directly by weakness of the reasoning powers, but by preconceived opinion, by prejudice.
Ten students from Loreto Convent Tara Hall, Shimla, went on a journey to render social services to Kolkata Mary Ward Social Center (KMWSC) – the Loreto Resource and Development Centre for Social Change that shook them to their core and changed the way they see other individuals.
The Loreto Congregation of Sisters has developed educational institutions all over India for over a century – since 1841. These institutions have been addressing the educational needs and upliftment of girls from all religious, economic and social backgrounds.
“We all feel grateful and blessed to have got this opportunity to become part of the One Billion Rising Campaign where we presented a dance on women empowerment and visited places like Brick Fields, Sonagachi and other slum areas where we got a new horizon waiting for us all,” says the team.
None of them expected to experience life in under such a harsh light and learn the truth, as mostly an opinion of society always dominate individuals perception about the surrounding, community or other things happening around us. Their interaction with sex workers or with laborers from Bihar and Jharkhand brought them closer to the reality of life by breaking the stereotype notions and prejudices dominated by the society. They also realized that true women empowerment is light years away at the grassroot level and all we have is a rosy sham.
“We often thought that sex workers are someone to be looked down upon and there are women of low virtues but one-on-one personal interaction with them changed our way of observing them. Now we understand that it is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change and sometimes this change comes with a horrific price,” shared the group.
The filthy and unhygienic living conditions of those workers and their moving sad life experiences shook the team to their core. The labourers in field come without any record and after working so hard in the field they hardly manage to procure two square meals for themselves and their family. Small children affected with various disabilities without much hope of better days made the team to contemplate on how fortunate they are and how they always took life for granted.
In life there was no such thing as a fair fight and all vulnerabilities must be exploited was the lesson they learned as they saw how poverty and lack of education changed lives of so many innocent women and pushed them into flesh trade where after serving four to five men all they get is hundred or two hundred rupees.
Continuous threat to their lives and exposure to various diseases is a daily challenge for them all and the worst part as they felt was that they are under government, and yet for an incident as narrated by students, “A sex worker was murdered and hung on the ceiling by a policeman for denying him services demanded by him, no one ever questioned it and life moved on normally for all.”
Students and teachers felt extremely grateful to the School Principal Sister A. Nirmala for having given them an opportunity to experience life in a different way, as normally media projects these people in a very fancy and misgiving light. They understood that perception is the only true source of knowledge.
Sister A. Nirmala who is working on the theme of Human Relations for her PhD shared, “I want students to learn and help others. Sitting in classrooms will never give them what a true first-hand experience that life can give. I don’t want them to just sympathise for a moment and walk away, but want them to feel the pain deeply and help others in whatever way they can.”
The team included Gauti Sood, Jahanvi Thakur, Harshita Sharma, Nitisha, Tanveen Kaur Sachdeva, Aastha Sharma, Vanshika Mehta, Nainika Ekka, Asmit Giriiraj Chauhan and Alish Butail. Team was lead by teachers Anjali and Rohini because of whom the students felt safe and were able to conquer their fears.