On November 18, ending India’s 17-year long wait, Manushi Chhillar won the prestigious title of Miss World. Her achievement, exceptional as it is, also stands out for the place the 20-year-old originally comes from. Although she studied at St Thomas School in New Delhi, she hails from Bamnoli, a village in Haryana, where opportunities for women have been extremely limited, but will this win change things?
According to 2011 Census, Bamnoli’s sex ratio stands at a 806 girls for every 1,000 men, lower than the state’s overall figure of 861 women for 1,000 men. Patriarchy in Bamnoli is the norm, and so are the restrictions imposed on women. Women are discouraged from going outside and if they do insist, then they are married off early. Tina Chhillar, Manushi’s distant relative, is a rarity given the fact that she has done her postgraduation and BEd.”People here are scared of sending girls outside. They want us to stay back and study. And if we insist on going out, we are asked to stop studying and are forced to get married,” the 25-year old told InUth.com. Girls in Manushi’s village are not allowed to own phones or wear jeans. Some follow these instructions, some don’t.
Tina, who is not allowed to be on Facebook, says she does not wear jeans, although she would like to. Such differential treatment reserved for men and women deeply angers her. “It’s very strange that men decide what women do and wear. Why do they stop us? This makes me very angry. Why do they differentiate between men and women?” she asks.
The men in the village, however, feel women “have enough freedom here”. “There are no restrictions on them,” says Resal Singh Chhillar, an 80-year-old resident, adding that women still follow the ghoonghat system at Bamnoli. “She cannot do what she wishes to but we don’t pressurise them to follow it either.” says Bhrahmaprakash Chhillar, a resident of the village.
Manushi’s victory then has provided a new lease of hope for the women of the village. Manushi has not spent a day at her ancestral house and yet the women here had danced in jubilation the night Manushi had won. Men as well as women are now hopeful that things in the village will perhaps finally change. Tina hopes that parents will trust their daughters more and girls will now pursue their dreams.
(InUth.com is a sister concern of indianexpress.com)
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