Friday, May 30, 2008

Lalitpur India " A Gallery of Faces"

All of these women are an amazing example of empowerment. It was an incredible experience to see how their lives have changed.

I'm sorry folks I don't know how this picture got in here.

Continuing on our Journey of Understanding through India, we found ourselves in Lalitpur. Lalitpur is located towards the central part of India in a very arid, dry region of India. We took the overnight train from Delhi to Lalitpur, led by Mission Worker Scott Smith (Community Development), who has been serving in India and Nepal for several years. Unfortunately, I did not sleep on the train due to a bad case of Delhi Belly. After a short rest, the health team boarded a couple of all-terrain vehicles and headed out on a dusty road to what seemed like the middle of nowhere. We were on our way to visit three villages that had begun women’s co-ops.

When we arrived at the first village we were surrounded by women of all ages, adorned in beautiful sari’s and eyes that lit up with a smile when we greeted them. Scott was speaking to them in their native tongue “Hindi” and asked them about their progress since his last visit. Scott told us that when he first visited, all of these women had their faces covered by veils and were very shy and submissive. Over time, the women became empowered by working with the women’s group. As the women gained confidence, they began to remove their veils, revealing their faces. You could see the confidence in their faces and in their body language. It was amazing to see what empowerment can do to change one’s outlook in life. India can be a very difficult place, especially if you’re a woman. Culturally, women are not regarded in the highest esteem and are often treated like second class citizens, particularly in the rural regions.

As the women spread blankets on the ground and sat down for a discussion, we learned that they had started a co-op and had begun an income-generating project by selling honey. Three young girls then came out and performed a skit on how to solve problems in the community. It was very encouraging to see the next generation embracing the values and confidence of the women’s group.

The second and third villages proved to be less inclined to participate in the women’s groups. Perhaps this was due to the dynamics within the village or the cultural dynamic with husbands not allowing their wives to participate. In either case, these groups seemed less cohesive and many of the women had veils covering their faces, had minimal eye contact and appeared less confident.

We hope that the women in the first village can serve as an example of what can happen in a community if the members are committed to positive change. By gaining empowerment, the women can begin to take charge of their lives and their own bodies. With increased self-confidence and peer support, they can lead healthier lifestyles and insist on protective measures thereby decreasing their chances of contracting HIV/AIDS.

1 comment:

Peter Varvel said...

Ahh, what an encouraging post!
Such beautiful, lovely faces--even the last one!
As a proud feminist, I loved reading about the progress of the first group of women.