A remote village in rural Rajasthan had strong divisions based on caste, with people from different castes even living separately. Neha Srivastava narrates how she and her team bridged this gap and brought the community together.
Ever since we came to Sadri village, we saw that the caste system held extreme prominence here, and everybody gave importance to their own mohalla (area, as colonies in Sadri are divided caste-wise). We noticed that people from one mohalla do not usually go to the other mohalla of the village, nor do they interact with each other.
We would always conduct our Behenchara Club’s meeting in the Brahmin mohalla and invite women from other mohallas as well, but women from the Bhil basti never showed up to any of the meetings, maybe because they never spoke to anyone from the Brahmin mohalla. This disturbed us, and hence one day, we thought that we would do something that encourages these women from two communities to come and sit together to talk to each other.
So, for the very first time, we organized the Behenchara meeting in the Bhil basti, inviting women from the Brahmin mohalla too. Many of them refused to go the Bhil basti. However, five women from the Brahmin mohalla accompanied us to the Bhil basti for the meeting.
On seeing these women come, a large number of women from the Bhil basti came out of their houses to participate in the meeting and to know about Behenchara.
For this meeting, we had also invited Sumitra from Jatan Sansthan, who spoke about Gender Panchayat Resource Center (GPRC), and how women could take their issues/problems to the Center to get solutions. She also spoke about how they can get information on various government schemes through the Center. She also highlighted the significance of having a space like GPRC in the village.
All the women were convinced with Sumitra’s points, and asked her a lot of questions, which led us to believe that they already had some awareness about the Center. They also said they would attend the meetings to stay connected with the Behenchara, and get the benefits of GPRC.
As the meeting ended, I felt very good. Somewhere, the gap between the women got filled that day, in the very first meeting in the Bhil basti. They all spoke their heart out and shared problems with each other. That day, they got a space where they could freely meet, interact, and chat with each other.
(The author volunteered with Pravah ICS from January-April 2017 and was placed with partner organisation Jatan Sansthan in district Rajsamand. Pravah International Citizen Service (ICS) is a once-in-a-lifetime volunteering opportunity open to all 18 to 25-year-olds. The UK Government funds it, and Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) leads it in partnership with Pravah.)
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