In Rajasthan, a visually impaired man puts his life on the line to get a concrete road built.
Video Volunteers (VV) runs India’s only reporting network that’s focused exclusively on providing broad coverage from the poorest, most media-dark districts in India. We currently have 206 individuals trained across India’s most diverse and marginalised communities, who all earn a living as a VVCommunity Correspondent (CC). Our goal is to grow our network to ensure India’s poorest and most conflict-ridden districts have a video producer and news outlet.
“That boy wouldn’t have died had there been a road in the village. Two-three women also died in childbirth. I couldn’t take this,” says Hanuman Gujjar, a visually impaired man, about why he started a campaign to get the three kilometre road to his village concretised.
Hanuman lost his eyesight at the age of eight. With a single-minded determination that comes from overcoming obstacles all his life, Hanuman took on the challenge of improving life in his village.
The 300 odd residents of Gandayata Village in Rajasthan’s Sawai Madhopur District could not remember a time when there was a concrete road leading up to their village. In its absence, they walked through fields; narrow dirt tracks. Everyone from the Auxiliary Nurse Midwife, to farmers to the school teacher and the Village Head were exasperated by the inconveniences faced. Pregnant women, and sick people who had to be transported 8 kilometres to the nearest hospital in makeshift cots. Farmers found it difficult to get their produce – red chillies the area is famous for – to the markets.
In February 2010, Hanuman, along with other community members, started a five-year-long concerted effort to fix this situation. The problem was two-fold. The only possible road would have to built through fields belonging to the powerful Gujjar community. They were not willing to part with the land even after the community collected money to pay them. On the other hand the authorities responsible kept passing the buck between them.
Meanwhile, the community, who are mostly wage workers, had lost hope and had more or less left Hanuman to fight the battle on his own. Hanuman persisted, and escalated the matter from the Village Head to the Sub-Divisional Magistrate, Revenue Officer, Land Record Officer, Governor, and finally the then Chief Minister, Ashok Gehlot. At regular intervals, they drummed up the local media’s interest in the issue as well.
It was in 2015 that matters came to a head. At a lok adalat (government-run legal camps), the community submitted multiple applications to the Sub District Magistrate demanding a decision on the road. Hanuman Gujjar submitted an application threatening to commit suicide if the matter was not resolved in 8 days. “On 8th August 2015, we got our road,” says Hanuman. The threat had convinced the landowners to part with a section of their farms.
The new road had made a remarkable difference to the lives of the community. It is evident as they beam at the camera, praising Hanuman for his dogged determination. The story is an inspiring example of not being bound by physical limitations.
Women empowerment is one of the most important words of the present times. It is not a mere phrase but it rather represents a movement, which has been pending for the longest time. However, many have a misconception that educating women, “letting” them work, etc. is all that women empowerment is all about. However, the concept of women empowerment is more of an umbrella term. It intends to involve society as a whole, including men.
We always encourage and applaud a woman who successfully balances both work life and her household. But won’t it be easy for that woman if the load of the work is shared? We see that in our society a woman’s primary role is seen as that of a homemaker. At the same time, her personal likes, aspirations, and dreams are forced to be put on the backburner because of the undue expectation that she has to single handedly manage the household while balancing her career. To give credit where it is due, the times are changing. Men and women of the house are increasingly sharing the workload. However, one can also not turn a blind to the fact that a lot more still needs to be done.
Driving home the same concept, popular brand Ariel has come up with brilliant communication.
The video shows a mother speaking to her married daughter over the phone, all whilst cleaning the mess her son has created. She is absolutely heartbroken when her daughter says that she plans to quit her job since juggling both a demanding job and her household has become too overwhelming. It is during this time that she realises that while she and her husband as parents left no stone unturned to give an all-round upbringing to their daughter, they somewhere forgot to teach their son some basic life skills like cooking and doing laundry so that they grow out to be equally responsible in doing household chores. This is not a story of just one family, but of families across the country. These are some things which everyone must know, not for any other reason, but simply because these are basic tasks which are absolutely essential to survive. And, they make you capable to be equal partners tomorrow!
As Ariel raises an important question-is household work only a woman’s job? We need to ask ourselves the same question. A recent study revealed that the unpaid work done by women around the world amounted to 43 times the annual turnover of Apple Inc. It is high time we share the load and change the narrative that household work is the “duty” of a woman. As the video shows, contributing to the household work is not only a daughter’s work, but the son must contribute his bit too. It is also important for the parents to instil a sense of responsibility in their children, irrespective of their gender so that at any juncture of their lives, they are not completely dependent on another person for basic tasks like these. Ariel has been consistently driving this message and addressing the inequality within households since 2015. The Logical Indian applauds Ariel for coming up with such a brilliant video for depicting such an important concept.