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"Their sarees and the green paddy fields are the real meaning of the word colorful."

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Their voices remind me of bravery, their eyes explain pain, and their hearts are looking for freedom. Most of the women in the villages outside the city of Varanasi can be seen working in the green fields. There are always more women than men. Their sarees and the green paddy fields are the real meaning of the word colorful. These women are brave – inside and out – but too often they are treated like the kulhar.*

If you want to see this mixture of beauty and bravery then you need visit the villages of Varanasi, India. There are thousand stories hidden under their ghunghat. Ghunghat where the loose end of a saree is pulled over the head to act as a facial veil. When you see them, it feels like you are watching the flowering of the bud. Here, the condition of women differs from one slum to another. When you meet them in groups, the men surround them like a lock. Unlock them from your rude rules and violence, let them root out to empowerment.

Life is hard in this village which has no facilities. Indian women know the cruelty of female infanticide, dowry, child marriage and the taboo of widow remarriage. It is 2020 and still, these faces have seen so many ups and downs. They are not strangers to domestic abuse, sexual assault and violence.

Now the women are stepping up to question and coming out of their ghunghat. They speak optimistic words, and encourage each other–because caged birds still remember how to fly. I have no doubt they are going to be the needed role models for their daughters, the upcoming generation. The women know what they need and believe in gender equality and empowerment.

There might be one hundred doctors, teachers, engineers and a home maker among them. Each has great dreams and responsibilities on her shoulders. Let her do it, don’t stop her and please don’t take her away from her ambition. Be the reason behind her smile not her fear.


Words and photography by Vaishu Manjunath, Shadhika’s Marketing Associate.

*A kulhar is a traditional handle-less clay cup used for tea in North India that is typically unpainted and unglazed, and meant to be disposable. 

Ghunghat

February 3, 2020

Their voices remind me of bravery, their eyes explain pain, and their hearts are looking for freedom. Most of the women in the villages outside the city of Varanasi can be seen working in the green fields. There are always more women than men. Their sarees and the green paddy fields are the real meaning   

Secrets

January 4, 2020

They have a secret. They cannot tell you where you live, for fear you will shun them. They cannot tell you about their family, for fear you will judge them. They cannot tell you about their lives, for fear you will betray them. They have a secret. A secret so profound, it has created a