Haryana shooter, Heena Sidhu, is not alone in her refusal to don a veil. The ace shooter bowed out of the Asian Airgun Shooting Championship in Iran which required female athletes to wear a hijab. A group of women in the patriarchal heartland of Haryana are taking on the age-old tradition of married women covering their faces, a practice known as purdah.
“Ghoonghat hamara character decide karta hai, yeh to galat hai na? (The veil decides our character, that’s wrong isn’t it),” Anju Yadav, 30, from Mirzapur village in Haryana, said questioning the practice in an interview with the Times of India. Anju observed purdah for a decade before deciding that she would no longer do it.
Anju and four other women from her family came together this April to convince elders to allow them to come out of purdah. The inspiration for the bold move came not from Heena Sidhu but from the local Anganwadi workers. The women observed that the workers went about their work unhindered by a veil.
Nazma Khan, the sarpanch in the nearby village of Dhauj, who also stopped covering her face, had noticed the same thing. Women who worked outside the home for a living did not wear veils, but women at home were forced to conform to the norm, she said.
Anju and the other women in her family decided to enlist the help of the deputy commissioner, Chander Shekhar, to convince the elders in their family that it was the right thing. He agreed to talk to the family and was relieved when they agreed.
The first thing the women did after removing their veils was to commemorate the moment with selfies. The move has more than symbolic value, women in Mirzapur village and Dhauj village are feeling empowered to speak about their rights and protest other forms of discrimination, according to the article.
“We encourage these young girls to talk to others, to motivate them and slowly things are changing. Women are coming forward to protest against domestic violence and ill-treatment. They are seeking education for their children and a better life,” Chander Shekhar says.
News Source: The Times of India
Know more about Heena Sidhu here.