As I am in India at the moment, I thought it might be interesting to write about the differences for women over here.
In lower caste families, women do not enjoy anything like the lavish lifestyle we have in the West. In fact I would be surprised if any of them even knew what “pampering” was. For many women in India, even having toilet roll is a luxury they cannot afford.
Lower caste women don’t really have any rights; they are often married off in deals made while they are very young, to men a lot older than them. Few marry for love, and it is pure luck if the two personalities are compatible and they eventually fall in love with each other. The men often beat their wives, and a blind eye is turned to domestic violence. In some ways, it’s like going back 50 years for women’s lib. You might think of Bollywood, brightly coloured saris and Shilpa Shetty when you think of India, but for the lower caste women, they don’t have anything like that. They don’t really have a voice; their lives don’t really have value in the way that women in the West are valued as equals to men.
Last time I was here, I was visiting an orphanage where a man wanted to marry one of their young residents. I sat on the panel for the orphanage, as an “auntie,” alongside the daughter of the orphanage owner. We acted as her family in meeting with the man. He was twice this girl’s age, and it was horrible for me to see first hand how commonplace this sort of thing is. I was relieved the girl didn’t end up marrying that man – but she is now married. I hope she met someone more suitable.
It’s sad to think, in this day and age, with so much grotesque wealth all around us, that low caste women in India don’t have opportunities – or even education. There is no career option for them. Being near the Ganges, I watched as women living nearby wash themselves and their Saris. The river is filthy, but that is their only option for washing their clothes. No place for a nice shiny washing machine in a shack made from scrap metal. Yes, we have no idea!
I’m not saying all of this to depress you. Women in India don’t spend all day thinking about how sorry their lives are; they get on with things and make the best of their situation where they can. I say it to show you how lucky we all are. I know there has been terrible flooding in the UK lately, but when that water drains away, we all still have a solid brick house with a solid roof over our heads. We have a bed to sleep in at night, clean clothes – and a choice. I can choose everything from what job I do, to what colour shoes I’d like to wear today. We worry about 8 or 10 depth lashes or using .2 or .5, which is shocking really, in comparison.
I think sometimes it’s good to get a little perspective on these things. My last post was about charity, and I really think it’s a great way to try and bridge that gap between the mad affluence of our lives, and the lives of most of the rest of the world. We are very privileged to be in this position; it never hurts to remind ourselves of that.
There is a silver lining so I am reliable informed, these women are doing their utmost not pass on their poverty and sad fate to their children. If they can get work as domestic maids, selling vegetables or working on construction sites, they can scrape up enough to send their kids to English medium schools. Many sacrifice everything they have as they truly value the importance of education in order to decrease illiteracy and poverty. Makes me feel so good!
How spending the day thinking outside of ourselves instead of how we look!