Thirty-two year old, Arti, a confident young woman, originally from Khanpur in South Delhi, moved to the quiet environs of Janauli, a village in Palwal, Haryana after a love marriage about seven years ago.
She had to get used to the place and the people of Janauli, but what bothered her most was the deep-rooted gender and caste discrimination. “In Janauli, an upper caste person will have a problem with a Dalit entering their home. People are also very particular about how women should behave in the village, “she says.
Although she is better educated than her husband, she could never work because she soon had children and this meant restricting herself to the confines of her household, taking care of her in- laws and her own family.
But things changed when her husband saw a poster for basic computer training and internet usage at the local market and encouraged her to join.
At the time, however, there were no women’s batches running at ETASHA’s center at their village. But Arti was determined. “There were four of us who were interested and we went house to house and spoke to other girls’ parents. I said if I as a married woman can attend class, why can’t young girls come?” she says, recalling how she mobilized 17 others overnight, creating ETASHA’s first all women batch at Janauli.
Arti believes that using a computer and the internet has empowered her and will empower other women too, in completely new ways. “I had never touched a laptop in my life. But here I had a laptop to myself for two whole hours and I can now use it confidently. I plan to work with my husband and help him in his septic tank business. I can’t drive the trucks but I can help with my computer skills because I am very comfortable using Word, Excel, and PowerPoint and using Google.” She says these skills will also enable her to be more involved in her children’s academic life. “When the men go to work, it is we who have to stay at home and help our children with projects. I am prepared to do this now.”
Further, finding an inclusive, non-discriminatory environment in their village has also been empowering. “Everyone is treated equally here. I’m from the Valmiki Community but this has never mattered to the facilitators here.” It was not just her identity as a Dalit, but also the fact that she is a woman. In addition to the restrictions on women in a patriarchal society, responsibilities towards children and the family often become like a handicap and so she appreciates the support of the ETASHA Team. “I was allowed to bring my son along for the class. I made sure that he sat quietly. If I wasn’t allowed, I would never have been able to complete the course.”
She is thankful to Hind Terminal for taking the initiative to set up this training center at Janauli.