Courage beneath a ‘chaarpai’: Gujarat mother breaks barriers, shows potential for change

Courage beneath a ‘chaarpai’: Gujarat mother breaks barriers, shows potential for change

It was a scorching 40 degree Celsius in Gujarat, at around 3pm, when we arrived in a village in Kalol district, drenched in exhaustion from the heat. We were welcomed by a group of children and mothers rushing towards us intrigued to know who we are and why we are in their village.

Amidst the serene setting beneath the trees, we spotted two ‘chaarpais’ and some chairs. Seizing the opportunity, I quickly settled onto one of the chaarpais and invited the women to join me, hoping to begin our conversations. However, they hesitated and swiftly distanced themselves from the charpai. I was taken aback and asked them if something was wrong. Seema ji (leader mother) stepped forward and explained that they couldn’t sit on the chaarpai in the presence of their in-laws, as it was deemed disrespectful.

Determined to understand their perspective without passing judgment, I gently inquired whether they shared the same belief. The mothers looked at each other, the glimmers of dissent reflected in their expressions assured me that they did not fully agree. I decided to let it go and we began our conversation while seated on the floor, leaving the charpai unoccupied.

pratham.orgWe started discussing their children’s progress as per the latest SRM report card. The mothers felt very proud that their kids could do most of the activities, while some said they are working with their children on the activities they could not complete. The mothers were keen to know when the second School Readiness Mela will be organized and seemed eager to see the progress of their child.

As our time drew to a close, I asked if I could capture some photographs of them. Everyone got super excited and I suggested that we stand for the pictures. Unexpectedly, Seema ji glanced around, ensuring her father-in-law was not in sight, and boldly declared, “Take my picture with Tanvi, and I will sit on the charpai, but please be quick.”

I couldn’t contain my happiness seeing her take that bold step towards defying the tradition holding them back. The fellow mothers were surprised too, however they were cautiously scanning their surroundings for any disapproving gazes. We eventually burst into laughter, celebrating Seema ji’s small win. She was setting an example for her fellow mothers and daughter who was watching all of this.

pratham.orgSeema ji’s bravery served as a powerful example of finding the courage to break barriers, symbolizing the potential for transformation and instilling hope for a future where women like her can challenge societal norms. This act will serve as a catalyst, inspiring numerous fellow mothers to break through barriers and shatter societal limitations.

Our state teams in Gujarat have been mobilizing drop out girls and women who could not complete their Grade 10 as part of the Second chance program. Seema ji and her fellow mothers have shown interest in enrolling in the program.

Note: The writer captures the spirit of young women/mothers in a rural setting; it is in no way intended to be disrespectful to any tradition

– Sveka S Kamala, Sr Manager, Program Management Group 

PS: This write-up has been published in its original form without any editing or alterations. Any grammatical errors, typos, or stylistic variations are preserved to maintain the authenticity of the author’s work. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the individual authors and do not reflect the views or positions of the organisation.