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We won't give up, no we won't give in!

By Tamu Bakery, May 3 2016 12:15PM

"I won't give up, no I won't give in

Til I reach the end and then I'll start again"

Shakira, "Try everything"

I asked someone to be a volunteer to help me to shape cookies. On about the fiftieth cookie (as usually it happens) my companion started telling me about her life - that she would like to become a nurse (she finished primary school with great grades) and wants to help people in need. Instead she is making chappatis on a daily basis, cleans and practically looks after the household sharing responsibilities with her mother. Her brother is lucky enough to attend school and is protected from any housework. At the age of 14 her life has been decided by her grandparents, who see education as unimportant for a girl's life. Instead they are looking for a potential husband for their granddaughter. The only light at the end of the tunnel for her are the sewing classes run by a local NGO (who have seen a lot of girls like my volunteer over the years).

At my second baking session in a rural part of Jodhpur (in Rajasthan, India) I hear even more moving stories. Discussing recipes of local sweet desserts, and the role of the woman in their patriarchal society, a few ladies started shouting. They are angry. Because their husbands beat them and this is not punished in their community. Someone's husband drinks and uses drugs, brings home very little money. Others say they are scared to even walk outside their homes as women get harassed constantly. They are even more scared for the safety of their daughters - young men are the biggest threat. That's why my partner NGO, the Sambhali Trust, is running self-defence classes for vulnerable women. It seems to me that this kind of violence against women is a major factor in the practise of early arranged marriages which are common in the region.

My last session broke my heart into so many pieces again. A lady with big, deep, sad eyes was crying non-stop throughout our baking class. She was married at the age of 14 to a man she had never seen before. Soon after she gave birth to twins - a boy and a girl. Her husband left her for another woman, arguing that he had never really liked her. She can't get a divorce from him, and still lives in the hope that he will come back one day. She can't move out from her family, as straight away will become a target in her community. So no solution is in sight, leaving her to survive the daily abuse from her family, villagers and society. Without being a psychologist, I can see that she is on the verge of suicide, like many sisters around the world in similar situations. All I could do is to tell her about her rights and give her a long hug. I can still remember how she was trembling...

Since my return from India, I have been thinking about how to help so many women on our planet, how to set them free the inequality of conservative rules... Education and empowerment is the only key. Because, more likely than not, the hero of my last story will let her daughter (and equally her son) make their own choices as to what to study, who to marry, when and how many children to have. Because when a women knows her rights, when she has community advocates on her side, and when she can learn a new skill to earn an income - she is unstoppable. And no more can her relatives tell her "Don't give cuddles to your daughter, concentrate on your son. A girl is not worthy of love"!

"I won't give up, no I won't give in

Til I reach the end and then I'll start again"

Image courtesy of Jayati Saha www.jayatisaha.com

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