Yesterday, we had the privilege of attending one of our partner organization’s widows’ meetings in a nearby village. As part of their women’s empowerment program, Bala Vikasa provides what are essentially support groups for widows.
Unlike most western cultures, to be a widow in India means that you are nothing. Widows are ostracized by their in-laws, harassed by their community members, and are largely abandoned. Widows are considered bad luck, and are blamed for the deaths of their husbands.
Practically speaking, widows often cannot work because they are illiterate, and thus cannot care for their children. They are faced with innumerable obstacles, which is remarkably different from western experience wherein grief is a widow’s only concern.
The women we met yesterday–though justifiably tearful–were a great inspiration. With the help of Bala Vikasa, many of them have relatively stable work, and some are even entrepreneurs in their respective villages. Moreover, these women develop courage and independence by sharing their stories in a group setting.
Attending the widows’ meeting was an immensely helpful introduction to one of many issues thisvillage will be faced with.
— Christie Esau
After an adventurous 26 hour train ride from Jaipur to Kazipet, we have finally arrived at the base of our partner organization, Bala Vikasa. Here is where we will spend our last few days in India.
Today we visited villages in the area, talking with local people about their lives, their stories and their needs. For a lot of villagers, we were the first white people they had ever seen. So, undoubtedly, we felt quite popular. Children and adults alike followed us around quite closely, proudly showing us their homes and their families. It was wonderful to see the joy on children’s faces as we took their picture, asked their name or just touched their hands. Amidst unfurnished schools, unsanitized water and serious poverty, it was amazing to see children still smiling and playing as they would anywhere in the world.
Today was also the first day of Ganesh Chaturthi, a Hindu festival celebrating Ganesh. Children had the day off of school and many people were out singing and rejoicing. We have been very fortunate to see such diverse and interesting areas of India, including places unseen by Westerners.
There are still a few more days left to meet and see more people. And, miraculously, we have still managed to avoid “Delhi Belly.”
— Graeme Esau