Sunday, 18 September 2016

What did I learn in India?

As Marcel Proust said:

«Le véritable voyage de découverte ne consiste pas à chercher de nouveaux paysages, mais à avoir de nouveaux yeux» // «The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes» 

- My look upon the world has changed, regarding : 

How I perceive the inequalities (poor/rich differences, people living in the street, gender inequalities especially regarding girls that are forbidden to pursue their education after a certain age, arranged mariage…)

How I perceive India, and the culture : I didn’t have that many expectations, I maybe was
beautifying the Indian culture and that issues that they had…

I realised the importance of education, regarding women's empowerment and the destiny of these women.

- My look upon myself has changed :

I’ve realized, (even though I was kind of aware of it) that I would like to be a teacher and that education is something really important to succeed in life and to gain more self confidence, self esteem and self accomplishment.

Talking about the people I have met, how they have changed my perceptio and my way to look at things.

For having lived in India for almost three months now, I can assert that my view on wealth and gender inequalities that are deeply rooted into the Indian culture have changed. Inequalities, especially regarding inequalities of income and opportunity, have always been topics that have upset me. I knew before coming to India that it would be hard for me to see certain things as children pulling on my clothes and begging for money and disabled people sitting on the street. And, indeed, on the first weeks, it was. I was aware of the caste system as well and I felt really bad when thinking about it.

I also knew that coming to India I will witness  gender-based and unequal rules, such as our way of dressing. I was aware that I would work with some Indian girls that start skipping school after primary or middle school in order to do household chores, that I would meet married women, young and old, who have not chosen their husband and I felt quite challenged about it.

Then I came to Harike. I have met the women and children at the temple community  with whom we are working with and the girls from the migrant community. I have encountered a lot of people in the streets, on public transport, in shops, at school, at the temple, at their homes, as well as interns from India and abroad with whom I had great conversations. Observing and witnessing these people’s lives and talking with them gives a different approach to how I consider inequalities, which is a different perception than when I was watching dramatic documentaries or reading sad testimonies regarding « these poor and unlucky Indian people ».

The first time I stepped in the migrant community, I felt pretty shocked and upset by all these houses made out of sheets of metal, straw, and wood. The children, beaming with joy, quickly ran to me, and the girls smiled so much as they welcomed me, that I progressively forgot how poor they are compared to how rich their hearts are.  In my eyes, they progressively have become strong and deserving girls that aspire to be teachers or beauty parlour women that are eager to learn and get over gender inequalities.

Over the Girls Clubs meetings, I got to know the girls better along with their aspirations and goals in life, especially concerning Jyoty and Kyran, the two most engaged girls and sisters.

In the temple community, I am working with Neetu, 14, who is attending the Girls Club and Babu, 20, who is a woman engaged with us to make products and attend English lessons. Although she is very young, Neetu is not allowed by her family to go to school. She stays at home to do household chores. Babu, one year younger than me, has a baby and can barely read or write. However, they are both really eager to learn and be engaged with us. Even though I feel lucky to go to university and to be able to earn my own money afterwards, I do not feel I am anybody to judge their lives. They are surrounded by their families and seem to be happy in this way. They will definitely continue to be engageg in English classes and Girls Club though, because education is the key that leads to self-accomplishment and self-esteem and that could empower them.  bMy previous angry and rebellious feeling toward these unfair situations is in a way fading away as I accept the reality as it is.

Furthermore, sharing opinions, ideas, and facts, about the Indian culture and mindset with some Indian people, has progressively changed the way I consider inequalities in India.

My pitiful view progressively broke down and became a realistic opinion. No one is totally a victim, no one is completly guilty, and everyone is just trying to survive and to be happy. As an EduCARE intern, I can try to bring these people some new perspectives, and attempt to rebalance these inequalities. That is the least I can do.

Delphine Lavernhe - France
ASP and Girls Club Project Manager in Harike

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