Thursday, February 25, 2010

Strengthening the Network

In the evening we went to meet Surendra Maheshwari, the Additional District Magistrate. Taraji presented a memorandum to the ADM, asking him to take action on thirteen sonography clinics that are technically closed down, but still contain sonography machines. The male-female ratio in Bhilwara’s villages is grossly unequal because of the high preference for male children. It’s feared that these machines could still be used for illegal sex determination, further tipping this ratio.

Along with Taraji, Nikhil, and myself, five others were present for this visit. Mr. Manohar Krashna Chauvey and Dr. Deepchandra Salonki were both elderly, retired personell, yet highly spirited. We discovered that both lived in New Delhi during their work years. Mr. Chauvey used to stay in Kirti Nagar and Dr. Salonki lived in Jangpura. Coincidentally, these are the places were Nikhil and I are from, respectively.

We were also joined by Masoomji and Asha. Masoomji worked as a saathin with Taraji for 25 years. In the mid ‘80s she fell in love with a man thirty years her junior. She was in her fifties. He was 27. She was a Muslim. He was a Hindu Jat. When their village found out about this affair, the two of them were kicked out of the community. For ten years they lived in Jaipur, braving miserable economic conditions. When they wanted to come back to Bhilwara, their village allowed the man to return but not Masoomji. So, she lived in Taraji’s shelter for five years, where she learned stitching. Today, she runs a successful stitching shop and employs four other victims that Taraji supported. Asha is one of them.

I couldn’t help but relate Masoomji’s story. There are many such cases that Taraji narrates to us. It’s a lot to digest, but I want to ensure that stories of women like Masoomji don’t remain untold. She needs to know that we applaud her courage and confidence. Now it’s Masoomji who brings women to Taraji, and teaches them how to sew if they are inclined to learn. She volunteers by stitching extra ghagras for rape victims. You see, once a person is raped she has to deposit her soiled clothes at the police station as evidence. She’s never worn anything but a ghaghra all her life, so other types of clothing like jeans or salwar kameez won’t do. It is in such cases when Masoomji’s ghaghras are put to good use. Masoomji and many others have weathered the storm. Through them, the network of support is ever-growing.

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