In the Chotonagpur plateau region of India, the tribal women face very worse form of patriarchal discriminations in her day to day life. This severely affects their living conditions and human dignity in the form of abuse, ignorance, identity crisis, isolation and various forms of exploitations. These women belong to very poor families who live in a choking environment of abject poverty, discrimination, alienation, anger and fear.
In spite of extreme poverty, a huge portion of the family income (women also toil hard day in & day out but their money is also snatched by the men) is spent by the men to consume liquor. And then the drunken man comes home and beat his wife like an animal. Almost each & every day the women are torn apart with this beastly act of domestic violence resulting in neglect, abuse and identity crisis. Because of the food shortages they also bear the trauma of coping with their hungry children. Because of all these each of these women, individually feel themselves powerless, each with a deeply limiting sense of self-efficacy (self-worth and ability). All these often lead to intra-household conflicts especially between the men and women resulting in domination of men over women acting as a great obstacle to women’s advancement and development.
My Idea — Building strong self-governed collectives of poor women
Power unlike material riches cannot be distributed – one cannot distribute power in the same way as one can distribute wealth; it has to be derived from within, from one’s own sense of being, what one believes one is capable of being and doing, or what is referred to as self-efficacy. Self-efficacy is the belief that one is capable of performing in a certain manner to attain certain goals. It is a belief that one has the capabilities to execute the courses of actions required to manage prospective situations.
So my envisaged outcome is to create robust community organizations of poor women to stimulate change in a community of people who individually feel powerless, each with a deeply limiting sense of self-efficacy. It would create an environment of moving forward together, lending support to and reinforcing each other and more easily and readily learn from each other. In other words, people similarly experiencing low self-efficacy would mutually enhance self-efficacy by working together where as solo attempts would depress it, reinforcing a sense of isolation and low self-efficacy. Individuals working together would create synergy; they create social capital, a shared, intangible but powerful asset. Finally, given the key drivers of poverty today poor people would organize and create social and political space for them to change the distribution of power in society. It is with this perspective that we need to focus on facilitating the marginalized with shared contexts and a common purpose to work together in solidarity in a sustained way to collectively challenge the existing distribution of power in society.
It is centered on empowering these women which relates more directly with power, as a multidimensional and interlinked process of change in power relations. The self-view which cognitively a woman has acquired is a perception about herself and environment where she believes that change cannot happen and she does not have a control and influence on it. Her low self efficacy affects her well being and thus her contribution to the society also strengthens the inequities.
An empathetic engagement with these poor women would trigger a search within…. a search to have an identity which is much larger than her cocoon. She also realizes that there are other women in the near vicinity are in the same boat, being at the receiving end of discriminatory practices. With proper facilitation, she would feel connectedness with these women, comprehend that her fate is dependent on her and also on others and would want to come together to form a collective / group with similarly affected women in their same neighbourhood.
This group will provide them a familiar space where they will not feel threatened, can share their lived in experience and listen to others, change their perceptions about self & the environment and develop a group consciousness to build a just & equitable society. I am visualizing there will be numerous such primary groups in an area which left to itself will face the larger counter forces of the society in its discourse and will not be sustainable. So the primary groups will establish a network with each other creating a more powerful institution. I am visualizing one small spark will kindle another spark, the second one kindles the third, and it goes on and on creating a fire which would change the society.