We live in a society where customs and rituals have been prevalent for a long time. Good or bad, we have been asked to live with and follow these traditions without questioning them. But there are few among us, who dare to challenge such notions which clearly stand in the way of the progress of our society.
One such woman, Rohini Pawar, belonging to Wahle village of Pune district, decided to donate her body post her death for medical research. She made this decision when she was not allowed to participate in the funeral rites of her mother-in-law.
Defying long-held regressive rules, Rohini decided to donate her body
Rohini always harboured a desire to donate her body after her death. This desire was further fuelled after her mother-in-law’s death.
Rohini, while speaking to The Logical Indian said, “These customs have been prevalent in the community to which I belong. Women are not allowed to go to the crematorium to participate in funeral rites of the deceased.”
Calling out on this tradition, she said it is unfair that women cannot participate in the funeral rites of their own near and dear ones.
She said, “The demise of my mother-in-law was a very tragic time for our whole family. When I was denied the permission to participate in the rites, I felt it was wrong. Looking at the sensitivity of the moment, it would have been very inappropriate had I taken up this issue that time. However, I made a resolution in my heart that I will donate my body after my death. If I cannot go to the crematorium when I actually want to go, I might as well not go there post my death.”
It is very heartening to know that her husband is supportive of her decision, however, her relatives are yet to come to terms with it. She says, “My husband told me to do what I feel is right. My relatives, however have yet not believed that I will donate my body after death.”
Her initiative to allow women to participate in the funeral rites of their loved ones might not have been entirely a success, but she managed to convince her relatives to allow women to attend the ceremony organised on the tenth day after the demise of a person, albeit with conditions. She said, “Women who were related to my mother-in-law and who have been married into different families in different villages were allowed to attend the tenth-day ceremony. Women who are married into the same village were still not allowed owing to long-held beliefs.”
She said she will soon start her research on the procedure to register for donation of body post-death.
A decision like this is particularly brave because a person always runs at a risk of being outcasted from the village if one tries to deviate from the preset beliefs.
#WomensDayWhen her mother-in-law passed away, Rohini insisted that she be allowed to participate in the funeral rites, something women are conventionally forbidden from. Her relatives called her stubborn and argumentative but she rose to the occasion and decided to donate her body for medical research. "If we cannot go to the crematorium for our loved ones, what is the point of going there once we're dead?" asks Rohini. #IWD2018 #TimeIsNow #PressForProgress
Posted by Video Volunteers on Wednesday, March 7, 2018
Rohini talking about her decision to donate body
Rohini’s various initiatives towards women empowerment
Rohini is worthy of being called as a true flag-bearer of women empowerment. Rohini herself was married off when she was just 15 years old. Soon after marriage, she felt very directionless and was overwhelmed with the new responsibilities that she had to handle from such a tender age. She decided to be independent, so when applications were invited for the post of Community Correspondent for an organisation called “Video Volunteers”, she readily filled the form and was selected.
She has worked extensively in the area of child marriage, an issue very close to her heart. Being married at a very young age herself, she knows how it can affect the lives of the children involved. She has managed to convince many parents who were about to get their young children married against it. On one occasion where fourteen underage boys and girls were to be married in a community marriage function, Rohini, with help from her friends managed to convince the parents against it.
Her crusade did not end here. She took up the onus of educating the girls. Knowing that educating just the children will not help, she started evening school for the parents as well.
We have heard of many temples which do not allow women to enter. Due to Rohini’s continued efforts over one year, Maskoba temple in Pune district, which earlier did not allow women inside the temple, now has permitted female devotees. She says, “I faced a lot of challenges since I had no support. Even women did not support mme fearing backlash. I reached out to the collector and after struggling for one whole year, this feat was achieved.”
Rohini also fought against the gender wage gap. Women labourers in her village were being paid Rs 60, whereas the men were being paid Rs 125 even when both of them were doing the same amount of work. She persuaded the women to protest against this by not turning up for work. This method worked and now both men and women are being paid the equal amount.
Various challenges faced
These are few of the many causes Rohini has taken up. Apart from the usual challenges, one of the major challenges that Rohini faces is the risk of being outcasted from the village. She says, “I am working for my own people, my own village. Since I am challenging regressive notions which have been prevalent in my village from years, I may not be always supported, even worse, there is a risk of being outcasted.”
Rohini, despite such challenges, continues to peacefully and effectively tackle these issues. When asked how she achieves her goals, she said, “We cannot just go and tell them things that should be done. So initially I try to gain their confidence and after that, through talks, by showing them inspirational videos and trying to make them visualize how this change will positively impact not only them but also their future generations, I try to put across my message. It is a long process, but it is worth it.”
In her message to The Logical Indian Community, she says, “We face many problems in our day-to-day life. However, we don’t raise our voice, thinking someone else will do. It is important that we leave our inhibitions behind and set out to correct what is wrong. When I joined Video Volunteers, I did not know anything, it was a little intimidating also since I am not very educated and did not speak English, unlike other members, but with time, I overcame these challenges. Most of us are very privileged since we can raise our voice. We should use this opportunity to become a voice of the unheard.”
The Logical Indian salutes the indomitable spirit of Rohini Pawar. Despite various challenges, Rohini has managed to rise above these problems and become a voice of the voiceless. We hope our community members take inspiration from her and raise their voices for issues which they truly believe in.