Sushila

I am Sushila Devi Hajara and I belong to the Dalit community. I live in Rautahat district and I am 32 years old. I have 5 children: three daughters and two sons. My husband is working in a brick factory in Kerala India. Due to being deep in poverty, my daughter who is 14 years old is also working as a housemaid in Hetunda. 
 

January 2024

Hello and Namaskar! I hope you are doing well. Here in Tarai, the weather remains misty every day, and the sun is barely visible. Despite the cold weather, there are still lots of mosquitoes in our area.

Before the training session started, our trainer greeted us and began with a review of the previous day’s session, as usual. Following the review, the new session began with a question: When do we start feeling like women? Is there any gender discrimination in your family? Do you have the opportunity to pursue your interests? If you were given Rs. 100.00, how would you like to spend it? Throughout the exercise, all participants openly shared their thoughts and feelings on the central themes of perception and gender discrimination.

After that, our trainer asked us about the proverbs used for women in our community. Everyone seemed so excited to share the proverbs, and laughter filled the air during the exchange.

Proverbs expressed by us:

  • Chori mari gaal tari (the daughter is dead and so is infamy)
  • Chori cheli gaal ko gund (a daughter is a nest of shame)
  • Bhaatko aincho ra swaasniko paincho huidaina. (The swapping of cooked rice and a wife is not done)
  • Laage laag mohani nalaage gharmai chha budi. (If romance does not work, there is always the wife at home)
  • Ghar khaanu chhorile, desh khaanu chhoraale. (The daughter is for managing the household; the son is for the world.)
  • Mahilako Rudra Ghanti Hundaina (women never maintain confidentiality)
  • Baabu chhoraa hisaapkitap, aamaa chhori aincho-paincho (Father and son doing the accounts; mother and daughter swapping things.)
  • Pothi baaseko suhaudaina. (The crowing of a hen is unbecoming)

 

Following the collection of these proverbs, discussions were held to anlyze how these expressions mirror the situation of women in our area. “The hen should not crow” means that the decisions of women are not recognized, or the women should not speak. Antother aspects is that the women themselves are accustomed to witnessing our grandmother, mother, elder sister and sister-in-law working. Conversely, if we argue we risk being given various “alias” names. Therefore, to avoid such labeling, we refrain from arguing.

 

Subsequently, we were posed with the next question: “What immediately comes to mind when you talk about women or men?”

Women Men
Two wheels of the chariot Tolerant
Idealism Brave
Tolerant Moving out
Decoration of the house Selfish
Coward Decoration of the head
Unselfish Courage

 

The women were asked, “Can’t the women be courageous, or can’t the men be tolerant and cowardly? In this way, distinctions and discrimination arise between women and men in terms of food, clothes, works, behaviour etc. All these distinctions have been created by our community and they could be altered. This is not a result of the nature; rather, it is a situation created by our community or society, commonly referred to as “gender”.

 

Therefore, it is crucial to instigate changes in our attitude and behaviors. Until the responsibilities of women in household chores are minimized, and the decisions made by women receive rightful recognition, providing them equal opportunities for education, it will remain challenging to empower women.

I was shocked upon learning about the discrimination which I never realized before. I found myself contemplating how to change this culture. However, the trainer emphasized that change is a gradual process, and it requires commitment to making small, incremental changes. Personally, I have resolved to prioritize the education of both my son and daughter, without favoring one over the other.

December 2023

Our group has a norm of conducting Issue Based Training (IBT) every second week of the month. During these trainings, we learn many practical things. We develop indicators and prioritize them based on our needs and urgency of the issue. Today’s session was focused on sanitation, and after reviewing the last session, the trainer asked us what the word “Sanitation” means. It seems easy but actually not that easy, because there are many things, which we know, but have not implemented. There are typically three levels of sanitation: personal, household, and community. Although we are aware of these levels, we often fail to implement them properly.

 

During a training session, the trainer asked us to show our hands, and it was discovered that out of 29 women, 21 had long and dirty nails. The trainer then explained to us how these unclean habits could lead to sickness by transferring harmful bacteria to our stomachs. It is small things but very important things. Our trainer then focused on  cleanliness of our whole body and also discussed why it is more important to be clean during menstruation period.

During a role-play activity, we acted as two families – one was clean and healthy, while the other was dirty and unhealthy. This experience helped us understand the importance of cleanliness and hygiene. We realized that being clean not only saves us money but also earns us respect from others. On the other hand, the unclean family had to spend a lot of money on their medical treatment, and people didn’t show them much respect. Overall, the activity was a great way to understand the significance of maintaining cleanliness and hygiene in our lives.

After that, we make our action plan as below:

  • Prepare waste box to put all garbage and manage accordingly
  • Clean tap stands areas where we take water in the community
  • Clean goat shades/cow shades/shops regularly.
  • Clean kitchen regularly at least once a week
  • Clean utensils everyday
  • Clean rooms and beds regularly

Our trainer asked us how we were feeling. I felt good, especially during the role-plays, and committed to cleaning as per our action plan.

October 2023

Today, I want to share my experience and learning about Saving Meetings and business training. Our Saving Meeting takes place every third week of the month. During the training, Sangita taught us how to conduct and attend the meeting. During the Saving Meeting, we actively participate and learn to calculate ourselves. However, due to most of us being illiterate, the task takes longer to complete.

Sangita encourages everyone in the group to boost optional and child savings for easier utilization of group loans. Following the collection and saving meeting, Sangita delved into marketing and stressed the importance of additional businesses. She demonstrated roles of a rude and soft businesswoman during the training, imparting valuable lessons on becoming successful entrepreneurs.

We gained valuable insights on expanding and sustaining our business, leading to an improvement of our overall living standards. Sangita emphasized the importance of expanding our business portfolio by adding new ventures, especially when our existing business is profitable and generating a stable income. It is important to have multiple sources of income to avoid being overly reliant on a single source. This method allows us to diversify income sources and reduce the impact of any unprofitable. As we expand our business portfolio and continue to grow, we can rely on our other sources of income to ensure financial stability.

During a discussion, she emphasized that it is important not to spend sales revenue on personal expenses when running a business. Personal expenses should only be covered by profits generated from the business. If sales revenue is used for personal needs, the business will suffer. In order to maintain a good quality of life, it is necessary to work hard and generate significant profits. She referred to this principle as the Business Entity concept.

These trainings are so effective and learning practical skills is nice. I am so happy that I managed to become a member of the WAWCAS group.

September 2023

Life is becoming easier for me. After completing a 7-day training program, I followed my business plan and opened my own vegetable shop. Despite receiving extensive training, I found it challenging to sell vegetables at first. I would often feel uneasy and nervous when it came to taking action or speaking to customers. However, with practice, it became much easier for me.

Currently, I earn around 500-800 rupees per day from my shop. I run a vegetable shop four days a week, located in two different Hat Bazars. I purchase the vegetables from the wholesale market and sell them to customers. Since I started my own business, my life has become much easier. I am now able to send my children to school regularly, which brings me great joy. To my surprise, my husband has been very supportive of my business and seems much happier. Additionally, he has significantly decreased his alcohol consumption, which is a positive change.

In a short period of time, I have noticed significant changes in my life that I never expected. My husband and I used to argue over small things, and he would often scold and beat me. However, since our trainer started making regular visits and discussing things with him, he has changed for the better. Now, he is much more positive and understanding towards me.

September 2023

There is a festival in the southern part of Nepal, similar to Teej, called Chachuchran. This year I was very excited to participate in the festival. During Chachuchran, women have the responsibility of preparing meals. To ensure that the meals are cooked efficiently and kept hygienic, I have constructed a brand new stove. In addition, women are required to fast for the entire day as part of the festival tradition. This year, I am celebrating the festival with enthusiasm since I have started my own business and can afford to do so without taking any loans.

Chachuchran is a celebration of the worship of Lord Ganesha and the Moon God. It takes place on the fourth day (Chaturthi) of the moons increasing phase (Shukla Paksha) in the Hindu lunar month, the sixth month of the Hindu calendar (Bhadrapada), usually falling in September or August.

The priest set the date for the Chaurchan puja for September 19, 2023. On 18th of September, we were very busy with the cleaning and shopping for the festival. The story behind the festival goes back to to a moment when Lord Ganesha accompanied by his faithful vehicle, the mouse, was once wandering on Kailash. Suddenly, he noticed Chandra Deva (the moon god) laughing at him. Perplexed, Lord Ganesha asked about the reason for his laughter. Chandra Deva explained that he found Lord Ganesha’s appearance amusing.  During this encounter, Lord Ganesha revealed his true form and expressed his displeasure towards Chandra Deva’s continuous ridicule. Consequently, Lord Ganesha cursed Chandra Deva, stating that his previous arrogance about his looks and attractiveness would now mean nothing as he would now appear unattractive henceforth. People would unfairly assume him to be a criminal, even if he had done nothing wrong. Chandra Deva’s pride was shattered upon hearing the accusation. He sincerely repented and begged Lord Ganesha to lift the curse. Touched by Chandra Deva’s genuine remorse, the compassionate Lord Ganesha forgave him. However, the curse could not be entirely lifted, and it was determined that anyone who saw the moon god during Ganesh Chaturthi would suffer its effects. To prevent false accusations, the people of Mithila and Newar communities worship the moon on Ganesh Chaturthi evening.

 

We prepared rice pudding and other delicious foods for the celebration. My sister-in-law and I fasted and worshipped the moon. We strongly believe that our wishes will be fulfilled if we worship especially on this day. During my puja, I sincerely prayed to God for the well-being, serenity, and joy of our family. After the puja, the whole family gathered together, and we enjoyed a delicious meal.

 

Thank you.

 

August 2023

During the 7 Days Training, I would not be able to go for work, and therefore I was very stressful as I had to arrange food for my family for all 7 days.  I had to manage this, and I had been saving since the last three months. But still it was hard to manage this for 7days. But I was trying my best. I also discussed this with my mother-in-law, and she told me not to worry. She would go to work. She is old and I was scared to send her to labor work.

But I am also very happy because I will soon start my own business.

Finally, the day arrived and my mother–in-law went for work and I went for the training.

After a warm welcome, our trainer said that the training would be started by giving an introduction in different ways. I felt excited and nervous. She pasted a piece of paper on the back of all members of the group and she asked us to find another similar piece of paper to pair up with our new friend. While searching my pair, I ran here and there. Everyone was laughing and we had tears in our eyes.

In that moment I remembered my childhood where I used to laugh so fearlessly.

The most interesting part was the exercise about naming a person who inspired us and a person whom you don’t like it. Trainer asked us to think about the reason for the person inspiring us. I was not sure who inspired me, because I have never thought about this. However, I did not think about the person, but I focused on the behaviors I like the most. Everyone expressed behaviors like positive thinking, honesty, trust, open-mindedness, tolerance, encourage people, never make decision in one aspect, commitments, always give good logic, simple, co-operative, listen when others speaks, give respect to everyone.

After our discussion on the inspiring people, the trainer again requested us to think about the person whom we don’t like – and the reason for that. The following points emerged from the exercise:

  • Always having negative attitudes
  • Show off
  • Jealousy
  • Backbiting
  • Pulling leg
  • Not cooperative

The main objective of this exercise was to inspire us so that we can be successful entrepreneurships.

The training was very meaningful. Every day I learn a lot about how to become a good and successful entrepreneur.  Then everyone shared their vision for the future. I said that my vision was that 5 years from now my children will reach 10 grade in school, and from my vegetable shop I will have 150,000 rupees in my saving account in the bank.

Every day I share what I learned from the training with my friends, and they also showed interest to be a part of the WAWCAS Program.

It was amazing how fast the 7 Days Training was completed: The atmosphere was very positive and joyful, and we played a lot of meaningful games which made us energetic and enthusiastic.

July 2023

We agreed to participate in the meeting and decided the time and date. As per schedule, I reached the venue 10 minutes before the meeting started. I saw some are already there but others are on the way. Everyone seemed so excited.

At the meeting, Sangeeta discussed with us the meaning of ultra-poor, poor, medium-poor, and rich. She explained to us the difference between poor and rich. It was not that I was unknown of the concept of rich and poor before, but the way she explained it made it much more clear. We discussed that the person, who doesn’t have access to land and doesn’t have enough money to fulfill basic needs is considered poor. In contrast, the person, who has access to land can afford a comfortable life, and can send their children to big school, and they are considered rich. After the discussion, she gave us a piece of paper where our own name was written. Then she asked us to put the paper with our name on the board according to our economic status.

As discussed, I thought I belonged to the ultra-poor as I don’t have access to land and it’s hard for me to fulfill the basic needs of my family. At first, I felt so awkward to paste my name in ultra-poor. I thought that other women in the group would laugh at me and will make a joke. But all the women present at the meeting were like me. And Sangeeta also said, that the programme of WAWCAS is for women like us. So, I pasted my name in the ultra-poor group. Likewise, other women also paste their names according to their economic status.

After the Economic status ranking, the trainer told us to make a map of the location of our house. I asked her why we should do this. And she replied that it would be much easier to find the direction of our house by seeing the map. It helps to know the way for others also. Otherwise, people might be confused. So, we started to make a map of our locality.

After the completion of the meeting, the trainer asked me about the meeting. I told her, that the meeting was very useful and gave us important knowledge. Before the meeting, I didn’t know that poverty can be categorized into different levels. Now, I know the reason behind being poor. I also know that I fall in ultra-poor group, but I am determined in my heart that I surely will uplift my economic status one day by doing my business properly.

I am Sushila Devi Hajara and I belong to the Dalit community. I am 32 years old, and I have 5 children: three daughters and two sons. In our culture a son is very important and therefore, after three daughters, we waited for our son. Now we have two sons. My husband is working in a brick factory in Kerala India. Due to being deep in poverty, my daughter who is 14 years old is also working as a housemaid in Hetunda.

For me, to become an entrepreneur and start my own business was beyond my imagination. In the beginning, I was reluctant because if we don’t work, we cannot feed our children and ourselves. My husband is in India, but he is not sending money and that’s also making me stressed. My daughter wanted to go to school but must work as a housemaid. We have not contacted her since February 2023.

The trainer told us about the WAWCAS program and its objectives. And she also gave us some examples of women who started business in January/February 2023. Now my thinking has been changed. I did not participate in the Information Sharing Meeting (ISM) but the trainer came to my house to ask why I did not participate in the meeting. Very honestly speaking, before I never thought that the program was for us, and I didn’t know how to manage it. But now I have the courage.

When the trainer left, I took care of my daily work. But my mind was not focused. I am thinking a lot and seeing some women who started the business two months back. They are earning quite well, so I decided to visit them to discuss how they manage and many more aspects.

 

Dear Readers,

Hi, I am Sangeeta Singh Thakuri and I have worked as a Local Program Leader (LPL) in the WAWCAS Program for almost one year in the Rautahat District. I am writing the blog of Sushila Devi Hajara. I will be writing her blog for 16 months on 16 different topics. After seeing and observing her situation I feel a big responsibility to change her socio–economic situation and I commit myself to change her life.

THANK YOU!

Sangeeta Singh Thakuri

LPL

Rautahat District