The population in India is soo much, 1.3 billion people, and no control program like China is being implemented. (I am not saying that it is good, just giving an information to do a comparison between these two big populated countries.)
There is a big poverty, the education ratio is so low, the women are treated badly (rapes, child marriage, discrimination, molestation, sexual harassment…). Maybe it is 5-10% of the population but when you do the calculation it is a huge number.
But today, we saw the hope with our eyes, we heard it with our ears, we felt it by heart!
Our community service day was arranged by VSO with Shramik Bharti and the program included 3 different villages, having some conversations with the villagers and the women in SHGs (Self Help Group), and doing a physical activity to be a role model for them, and seeing the kitchen gardens, grain and seed banks, the water saving mechanisms…
After gathering in Shramik Bharti’s office,we started our journey with CSC team, VOS team, Shramik Bharti team and some other volunteers from different NGOs. Rashmi from Shramik Bharti was our translator cause most of the people that we would meet in villages does not know English.
A few days ago I decided to talk in Hindi when we would introduce ourselves to the women in SHGs. I thought it would be very nice to them and my friends know me: I love people, cultures, languages, learning and sharing.. On our way to the villages, I wrote a small introduction about me and my country. Kavneet (from VSO) and Nitesh (a volunteer for this day and works for empathyconnects.org – that I will discover that he was also a computer engineer and changed his mind a few years ago.. ) helped me to translate it to Hindi. I practiced for two times and I was ready. It was not too difficult 😀 See me in my video.
The first village we arrived was “Kakupur Sitaram”, where we have seen how the villagers practice to keep the water level higher underground. It was a very neat village, especially comparing to some urban areas we have seen. We gathered in the temple with the public and they mentioned how they started this activity, educated the villagers and implemented a sample. Thanks to Rashmi that she did a very good job in translation. In the temple, the pundit (Hindu priest) has joined us too. He as a very old man and surprisingly he knew a bit English. He contributed with his knowledge. At some point, he became so emotional and he warned us that Ganga is not a river but its his mother, our mother. We need to call her “Ganga ma”.
The next stop was to “Shivrajpur”. We were welcomed by the villagers in their traditional way: with a flower necklace, bindis and a bite of halva. We met the women farmers that belong to the SHGs. I do not know how to define all these women. They were colorful, cheerful, confident, not-shy, very welcoming, intimate.. We started with the introduction. And I read my small passage. I did not see their faces but all my friends told me that they appreciated it 🙂 I felt that I am one of those women though I believe they are much stronger and ambitious. After the introduction we asked questions about their life, how the SHG organization helped them not only financially but also socially, their families, how they support their children now, how their husbands treat them etc etc. We were all so delighted of their answers. Last 20 years (though Shramik Bharti works for the last 30 years, the first SHG in that village is created in 1998) has changed the whole life for them. Previously they did not have any right to have a bank account but now they have a voice in the bank and they are served. They were not able to go out of their houses but they gained the mobility, even their husbands ask them why they don’t go to the SHG meetings. They behave equally to their boy or girl children, if they give a glass of milk to the boy, they give the same to the girl. And they have a word in family decisions as well. They talk and discuss.We could see the confidence in their talking, the spark in their eyes about future. It is a very good job of Shramik Bharti.
These are some highlights from the 1-1.5 hours we spent together with them. In the end, they sang a song for us and a few of them danced as well. And we went to one of women’s house for lunch. They cooked everything for us !!! I could not believe in it.. When I went to the hall to wash my hands, I saw the ladies preparing the food plates for us and I could not stop asking if they need any help. Of course first they said no, I can go and sit but in my culture even if you are a guest, you can help. Forget about culture, I personally cannot stop. Finally they called me and showed me how they pout the curry and the rice pudding. After helping them a bit, the ladies showed me how they do the roti. I joined them and prepared 5-6 roti. The smell of the streets, the house, the women helping each other to prepare the plates, rolling out the dough, doing all these stuff on the floor.. Everything reminded me my grandmother’s house: Seydisehir.
The lunch was delicious of course, much better than what we eat in the restaurants and we learned that all the food was prepared with the organic products they grow in their kitchen gardens. It was the answer of the taste.
After lunch, we were divided into three for the physical activity that we were asking for. The women would do men work, the men would do women work. The 5 women went to a cow farm and prepared food for the cows. We cut the greens from the field, chopped them with a mechanical machine and then finally we mixed them with hay and some other brown things (that had corns, some vegetables, i think also bread. I am not sure). While we were doing this 4 of the men went to another house to create flour from wheat, and the other 4 did the dish washing. We need to admit that all these 3 works were tiring.
After we are done with our activities, we had a very quick session with the men and women again in this village and jumped into our cars to go to the third and the last village: “Padraha”. In this village we went to Siya’s kitchen garden. Siya was one of the most active women during the day. She is growing 13 different products in a 20-30 sqm area: tomatoes, garlic, beans, pumpkin, carrot… When we were on the field, they also gave us to eat fresh chickpeas!! It was one of the moments of this day (within hundreds) I just went back to my childhood again, my times in our summer vacations to my grandmother’s place. They used to but a big bunch of fresh chickpeas. And in the middle of India, I met the same..
Then, went to two houses to see the grain bank and seed bank. They call it bank cause the villagers can borrow or lend products to these banks. They are 500kg / 700kg containers. Btw, I also need to tell you about the concept of kitchen garden. Cause when they said kitchen garden, I was really thinking that it is next to the houses but it was not. The idea of using kitchen word was to support kitchen with their effort, not to buy food outside as much as they can. It was a good point and in Turkey we do the same too. We call it only garden, not kitchen garden 🙂
It was around 6pm that we started our way back to Kanpur. At Shramik Bharti, Mr Ganesh was waiting for us and we did a wuick feedback session. It was a very emotional time, all of us could not find the words we wanted to say about how we were delighted about the thigns we have seen and how we appreciated their effort until now.
As I started in my blog that there is a hope. We can see it in women’s eyes, smiles, coinfidence.. We can see it in Sadhana and Mr Ganesh’s belief in this organization and their endless efforts.. We can see it with the program how sustainable it is and it continues to grow.
And a final personal point. Today was a very big “moment” in my life, being with the women, seeing how they try hard and grow continuously, the similarity with my family’s and my childhood life.. I really missed my friends, my dear Istanbul and my country.
#ibmcsc #cscin37 #cscindia37
alladola, 10thMarch 2018, some villages around Kanpur.