For middle-aged Bhanmati — who ekes out a living working at a brick kiln — International Women’s Day is an alien concept.
A calendar event held annually on March 8, Women’s Day is celebrated globally with a host of seminars, workshops and promotional events, and participated in India largely by the urban womenfolk.
“Babuji hame nahi malum Mahila divas kya hota hai’ (Sir, we do not know what women’s day is),” says Bhanmati, when asked about the day’s significance. For her, March 8 remains just another day, and she says she has to worry about scraping together two meals for her family.
Many women like Bhanmati — who work at the lowest rung of the society — also do not have any consciousness of the significance of this day, which attracts massive attention in cities and other urban areas. Chameli, Daya, and Rambhateri — who all earn their bread doing odd jobs — said they “do not know why and when Women’s Day is celebrated.”
Several women in many towns and villages in the state remained busy on International Women’s day picking plastic and paper from garbage dumps to earn a modicum of living. Hasina and Rubia — both ragpickers — said they have not heard of anything like Women’s Day or about women’s rights. They appealed that the government must do something so that they could get some work.
The hand-to-mouth existence of these women stands in stark contrast to their well-to-do counterparts who celebrate the day by participating in seminars and workshops in air-conditioned halls in big cities.
Babita — a teacher — said nothing can be achieved if only a limited section of women becomes financially strong. “Every woman has to become strong and fight against injustice,” she said. Vineeta Arora — a doctor — while addressing the staff and students of an institution, exhorted women to become independent and self-reliant and stressed on their empowerment.
Centre’s ‘Beti Bachchao Beti Padhao’ drive launched last year seeks to end female foeticide and promote girl education. The campaign was launched in 100 worst-affected districts including those in Haryana.