Women play an important role in any society. In India, we have a patriarchal society where gender roles are strictly defined. In a Village Society, gender roles are more pronounced as compared to the urban city life. Men work in the fields while women usually take care of the household needs. In ancient times, women have held such powerful positions and with time, the rural women of contemporary India came to be bound by several restrictions. However, we see a totally different picture in the Bedia Tribal Community of Jharkhand. The Bedia People have an egalitarian society, they do not have strictly defined gender roles which put male and female in a hierarchical order. Women and men both complement each other and run the household. Both the genders are brought up in a similar fashion, without any biases. Kids are sent to school for studies and have a happy regular childhood. However, for women, the degree of freedom increases when they get married. They are given responsibilities and they play an active role in the community.
Most of the women in these tribal households are part of some or the other self-help group. In this region, women manage the entire finances of a household. Whenever there is a crisis, women drive the family out of that crisis.
The Self Help Groups run by these women have an efficient mechanism. The Mungadih Village in Angara Block of Jharkhand has about 7 SHGs. These SHGs conduct weekly meetings and the women discuss the issues of the households and the community in detail and help each other out. People are open to sharing and learning. Loans are given generously. In every meeting, these women contribute 10Rs each and build on the funds of the SHG Account. At any point in time, the SHG has a minimum balance of 1000 INR while the maximum balance has been up to 15000 INR. People don’t take loans regularly.
They only take loans as per their requirements and sometimes even go for longer periods without giving out loans to anyone. People have sufficient money for themselves. It is during the rainy season when there is a lot of demand for loans and the funds are equally distributed. The community works in a holistic fashion.
Women manage everything from the home to the fields. While men do the hard physical labour of ploughing the field, the rest of the agricultural activities are taken care of by the women and men work in the cities during that period to look for additional income. It has been acknowledged that women feel more powerful and empowered after getting into the association of marriage.
Sukarmani Devi, says, “When she was in her maiden home, she had to listen to everyone in the house, however, after marriage, she plays an active role in decision making and often scolds her husband for his drinking habit and only three months ago, he left drinking and they are a happier and have additional savings because of that.”
Another lady, Lalita Devi, tells us about how the SAFAL Program of CIPT has helped the community. “Everyone has sufficient money for about 10 months of the year and sustenance is insured. Earlier when marriages used to happen in the household, everything had to be borrowed, however now due to increased income because of Dobhas and HYV seeds, they are able to arrange everything on their own and do not have to depend and that makes their life easier and out of the vicious debt trap with the moneylenders.”
People in the region have simple hopes and dreams, they are extremely content with the life they are leading. Their faces radiate glow and satisfaction. Most of the women said that when they were kids, they wanted to be a “Bada Aadmi” and now they want their kids to fulfill their dreams and are sending them to schools and colleges for studies without any gender biases. Lalita Devi is sending her daughter to Tatisilwai College so that she gets a good paying job and a smart city husband.
While the city life has its own quirks, meeting people in the villages offers a glimpse in the simplicity and beauty of a happy contented life. Farmers not only provide us with our food, but they also provide us with the teachings of a lifetime in a single conversation.
Note-The above story was covered by CIPT Employee Neha Thureja who works at CIPT as a Communication Officer and she went to Mungadih Village in Angara Block of Ranchi where CIPT has been running its SAFAL Project for the past four years in association with Birsa Agricultural University as part of USAID Supported WEALS Program.