Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Building relationships

Living in a small rural area in the middle of Punjab is not an easy task. Everyday we feel watched and often people come to ask us what are we doing here and why, or just to say “Namaste!” Up until this time our work in EduCARE has focused on improvin the conditions,  and empowering the migrant people who are living in tents with no power, safe water or access to health. Many times the community does not understand why we are working with the migrants nor do they have an interest in the problems they confront everyday. Since we have noticed that the community is not interested in our work, we have decided to build more relationships with them and start projects where they too can have social and personal benefits. A week ago we visited one community in Dholbaha, is a small community with 3 villages (mohallas) within the community area- Mansa Devi, Ganesh Nagar, and Chand Mohalla. There are about 25 families living in total in this area. Each mohalla has about 8-10 families. Each household has about 6-8 family members. Most of the children in this community go to school.

Dholbaha Community

No one said it would be easy build relationships with local people, even moreso if they do not speak English. It is really helpful have an Indian working with us but we cannot relay on him everytime. Dholbaha Community

Visiting the families consists of sitting down in a circle and trying to speak as much hindi as we can with them. Family men used to welcome us while their wives or mother prepare chai, sweets or if we are lucky, pakora.  Even after four months of living in India, visiting families and in my case, living with one, I still feel uncomfortable when I see that is only women working in the house and men are sitting outside resting. 

We have visited some families, all of them live with the parents, the older, married couples are generally retired, and their sons and daughters if they are not married yet. In India once a couple gets married the woman moves to the husband's house and start living with his family. So, no matter what were her plans or what she wanted for herself she is now relocated to a new place sharing her life with a family that is not her own. This is why these wives do not feel confidence many times when they have guests in the house to start a conversation and also, as I said before, they have to cook and work indoors so are otherwise busy. 

In one of the houses we met a man and wife who live with his parents and his brother who is married also, and none of them have children yet. Both wives were smiling and they brought us chai and sweets during the time we stayed there. One of the women invited us to sit down in her bedroom while we ate and tried to speak Hindi with all the family.  She showed us her wedding album, they got married three years ago. It seemed that it is only the man who knows a little bit of English but not the women. They did not speak during the visit, so we could only talk with him and a little bit with the mother who was laughing while we tried to speak with her. Elder people, mainly the women, are very kind and nice when they receive guests, they like to show their family and they  laugh with us. Men in this case are more in the backgrounds, not engaged so much in the conversations. This is why we did not meet the family's father. 

Visiting this family and the others was really interesting for me, one because I could notice how women live in this area, despite the fact that I have been here for four months.  I am still not used to seeing women just working at home and being so shy that they refer to their husbands. In the next months I would like to have meetings with women in the community, make workshops and English lessons with them. Empowering women is the only way to achieve equality

Adriana Martinez - Spain 
Women's Empowerment Project Manager

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