Sunday, November 20, 2011

First Week!

What better way to celebrate a new year than with an adventure? That's why I'm starting my 25th year of life here in my ancestral grounds of India. I'm filled with eager hope (perhaps idealistic naivete) that somehow I will be able to bring change to the women of Saurath, and "find myself" somewhere along the way.

And after a 16+ hour commute, I am finally in Noida and ready to get to it. The week began with learning more about the Saurath community, the work done to date and the objectives of our current project. Over the next few months, our goal is to empower the women of Saurath through the establishment of a "women's shop" - a shop run by women and made exclusively with female needs in mind. The shop will provide goods and services previously under-supplied (if at all) - from small cosmetic items to child care tools to hygiene and other women's products.

See, what I have learned is that not only are many women's products not available or too expensive in rural areas, but many women often go through their male counterparts or older women in the family (if they are younger) to make all the shopping decisions. And because of certain social barriers and stigmas associated with buying these products, particularly from the vast majority of male shop keepers around, many women are often left under-informed and ill-equipped.

So I got to thinking about the female experience here in India. Granted, I've only been here a few days, so I really don't know much yet. But I can tell you what I've seen. And as I told a friend of mine who just moved back to India from the U.S., I've seen that it takes real cojones to live here as a woman. From dodging the shameless stares and whistles of the male passer-by (this is why I'm grateful for ladies only cars on the Metro!), to trying to convince others that you still have time on your ticking "biological clock" for marriage, to cautiously avoiding traveling alone after certain hours - there's a lot of can-not's and should-not's for a woman. Not that this doesn't exist all over...

But enough of my feministic rant. What I am most anxious about now, is to see and experience the life of a woman in rural India. To understand the unique set of circumstances and history that have created the social structure that exists today. I'm hoping to really immerse myself in the Saurath community (gotta build those Hindi skills!), so that the solution we are building through the women's shop won't just be a one-time, short-term fix but rather a sustainable solution that really meets the needs of the women there. And so much so, that it will eventually be owned, driven and pushed even further by the female community itself.

Let's see how much I can push the Jam-indian girl in me to dig deep and identify with another.

PS - I don't have many pics yet, but here's a few from my place:


  1. i'm so excited that you are writing a blog during your time there! at least this way i can keep up with you and what you're doing in your exciting life! it looks like you're already getting into that seema "get things done" mode! well, i miss you! ...and post more pictures... preferably some with you in them ;) bye! -kc

  2. This is your place, Seema? Looks nice! PS, I had no idea about the "Ladies Only" metro cars. If only we had those in New York...

  3. yeah - this is where I stay in Noida (outside Delhi). But now I'm at the project site in Bihar.
    I was thinking the same thing about "Ladies only" metro cars in the US! :-)