Tracking the journey of Asian Circle in India

Tracking the journey of Asian Circle in India

Members of Asian Circle visiting India, try and match steps with the local Tribals.

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Read the tales of inspiration that moved the members of #AsianCircle during their visit to projects of @OxfamIndia. http://bit.ly/1E2ia8y

“To bring change you have to be the change...” Women of #AsianCircle get moved by the stories of gender violence in #India. Read http://bit.ly/1E2ia8y

The journey from Raipur to Kondagaon begins. It's the start of a long two week tour for a group of British Indian women who support some of Oxfam India's gender projects in Chhattisgarh and Odisha. 

They are part of a group called the Asian Circle. The tour is taking them into a world and a way of living very alien and distant from the everyday London bustle. Where lives are comfortable and careers are successful. Full of various commitments and priorities. Making this journey is not just a physical distance but more..

As I listened to each one give their introductions on the first day, the recurrent theme was reaching a stage of transition in personal lives where search for new meanings had begun. And the journey is in some ways a search for new meaning. When we were planning this trip, in my mind it was to show these donors the projects they support, but after 24 hours with them I realise, its more than that. 

It's going to be a journey of perceptions shifts for both them and me. Bringing them into this world and allowing them to see, experience, understand and respond to the issues, the stories, the surroundings and take back that experience as their own. 

As the day progressed we all shed the layer of formalities and conversations went into stories, anecdotes and endless discussions. 

We visited an annual mela in Kondagaon today where communities come together in an annual ritual of their sacred gods and goddesses.

In their presence they followed age old customs, they make marital alliances which are formalised when the mahua flowers are in full bloom and ready to be developed into liquor.

Marriages culminate and all surround to celebrate over cups of mahua. A crowd of more than 5000 had collected from villages in far flung districts for this mela. Men looking possessed, their tongues pierced with long thin needles and blood pouring, frenzied energy and excitement, it was an overwhelming experience for many. Not to say for these women, who come from lives of privilege and plenty. 

On the drive back I sat and listened to one of them who finally admitted to feeling embarrassed and guilty for owning so much when the women in the crowds probably owned two sarees, one they washed daily and the other was worn. 

It was so overwhelming and stark to experience this difference that many claimed would change their thinking in some way. They will go back and return to their lives. They will still own plenty, they will still be rich and successful and work to earn more and multiply that wealth, but will also understand that all the wealth need not be spent on themselves or stored in bank accounts. 

Some of it can be shared for the upliftment of those who can only afford two sarees in their lives while others have a walk in closet which cannot hold everything they own. 

The inequality report does not ask the superrich to give up their wealth or distribute it with the poor in the world, but a nominal 1.5% tax which can provide a better life for those less fortunate. 

One of the visiting members said “to bring change you have to be the change and for that you have to understand and see the reality.”

I hope witnessing this reality, would inspire these women and through them many more to bring change.

 

By Gunjan Jain

 

Tales of inspiration

KHOJ Sajag inspires husbands to break gender stereotype

Nandini Sahoo lives in Hanuman Deep village, Mahasamand district. 

Earlier when Nandini would have her periods, her husband Yogesh Sahoo would not enter the kitchen or eat the food cooked by her.

Women are considered to be impure while they go through their menstrual cycle.

Nandini then decided to join the KHOJ Sajag’s Samajhdaar Jodidar (intelligent partner) programme. The conversations in the programme transformed her husband.

Yogesh broke his gender stereotype and would happily sweep the house now. Seeing his father in action, their 5-year-old son takes inspiration and picks up the broom every now and then.

 

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My wife taught me

Panchram, a Dalit from Rampur Dipapara, Mahasamand district, says he used to return home drunk and would beat his wife. 

He would then order her to cook eggs and fish for him. If the food was not ready or to his liking he would beat her again.

His wife and children were so scared of him that they started avoiding him.

This came as a wake-up call for Panchram. He decided to stop drinking and make amends with his family members.

Now he can cook a meal for all his four children. “They love eating the dal (pulses) and fish that I cook,” he proudly says.

When I ask his wife, Sumitra, how did he learn to cook she proudly says ask him. 

Panchram promptly replies, “my wife taught me”.

 

 


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