This week produced profound insights into the status of women and women’s empowerment. We started the week by receiving our NGO Placements. For the next 6 months, I am working with Jatan Sansthan (Jatan), an organization which focuses on mobilizing youth in order to expand women and girls’ rights. I spent much of the week observing Jatan’s Apna Learning Center, an enrichment program that works with both children enrolled and not enrolled in school in order to supplement their education. I was asked to teach an English lesson on Gender and Opposite Words (up, down; in, out), which I did with conflicting feelings. English fluency seems to be a key component of upward social mobility here in India, but I wondered if my 30 minute English lesson would truly serve these students in any way. I also recognize that after less than two months here, I’m not qualified to make an assertion about the keys to upward mobility in India, although it is a question I will continue to ponder throughout my time here.
I spent the other half of my NGO time this week stitching a cloth pad at Jatan’s Uger Center, which creates and teaches others how to create reusable and eco-friendly cloth pads.
Karva Chowth, the Indian holiday that is celebrated by women fasting from sunrise to moonrise in order to wish their husbands a long life, was also celebrated this week. From my coworkers to homestay family members, I saw Karva Chowth through many different lenses. I saw the approach of devotees in some of the women at Jatan and in some of the women at home, and also a more egalitarian approach through other women. Sydney, our Educator for the week, informed us of the female network that has developed in order to prep for, celebrate, and care for the women in one’s life during Karva Chowth. Karva Chowth seems to be a holiday in the process of evolving from patriarchal practice into something more complex, much like the evolution of Thanksgiving in the States.
Lastly, on Saturday, we met with documentary filmmaker Disha Arora, who screened her film Women and Religion in India. Afterwards, we had a talkback that produced nuanced examinations of the impact of religion on the status of women here and elsewhere.
I really enjoyed learning about different facets of life for Indian women this week. I hope that my experiences continue to enrich my perspective on and understanding of Women’s Studies.