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The dilemma of understanding feminism and rural development

This post is not an answer to any question. In fact it is a series of questions that I have been trying to answer myself.

In my subconscious I guess I knew that the question about understanding feminism and rural empowerment existed somewhere deep down, inside me but I came face to face with it a few days back when I met the principal of a catering college in Pune. The principal has been working with rural women groups for their training and development for quite a long time. It looks like that she has done some real good work around it. When I shared with her my vision to change the status quo of rural communities I work with, she threw my dilemma right on my face “Do you know what the farmers or the women want? You can’t be on a mission to change something that doesn’t exist”. Of course I was upset for a few seconds but brushed my thoughts aside.

Today I visited an annual function of a non-profit that has been working for the development of rural women in few villages of Pune district. The head of the organization is a beautiful, soft spoken woman who has spent 25 years of her life changing the attitudes, thoughts of rural women and showing them direction of knowledge and development. During the welcome speech one of the trustees of the organization said “we want to train these women in social and ancillary skills so that they can become successful housewives. Because that’s what they want to do”. I left the function with this statement stuck deep into my brains. Have I been thinking about women development in the wrong way? Am I really away from the deep down truths of the social problems that I have been trying to address myself?

This incidence also reminds me of my visit to few villages in Kumaon where I met a few small famers and tried to understand their challenges and livelihood problems. One of the young men I met from a village family told me that they don’t want to migrate to cities. But their circumstances force them to do so. He said that if there could be a solution that earns him money while he can still be connected to his motherland he would die for it. The kind of work that he would do matters less than the opportunity to stay back on his homeland.

Maybe instead of uprooting the people and dragging them far away from the basics of their life is the worst approach to the problem. Maybe we need a different way to help people while keeping their wishes, needs and wants on pedestal. Whenever we wish to address a social problem or atleast try to share our opinion on it, we only view the problem from our side of the lens. This lens only shows us what we see in media, read on the internet or think is an easier or socially justified approach.

Maybe we need to understand that there is no extremist approach to feminism, rural development and many other social issues that we feel have been oppressing our society. There is a lot of grey, a whole lot of it.

 

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Founder, Happy Roots. Passionate about agriculture, social change and rural economic development. I am on a mission to address the biggest problems faced by small and marginal farmers in India with technology and supply chain efficiencies. I work with small and tribal farmers across Maharashtra and help them connect directly with end consumers in high potential urban markets. At Happy Roots we not only build market linkages for our farmers but help them train and upgrade their skills so that we can nurture the next breed of micro entrepreneurs.

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