Raja Ram Mohan Roy, one of India’s reformers, abolished the practice of sati as he considered it a social evil. However, even after so many years, the societal pressures and stigma that a widow has to face, remains more or less the same. The oppression, exploitation and ostracization that they continue to face in the society, should make us aware of the patriarchal structure that continues to oppress women, and most of all, women who don’t have “men to protect them.”
Luckily, it was the second day of my internship that I had an opportunity to visit Vrindavan and be a part of the inauguration of Maitri’s second shelter home for widows, there.
When employees from Maitri and I started distributing food and fruits to the widows, I realized how important is it to have these organizations, the ones that willingly take up causes that need to be addressed, and selflessly continue to put in efforts to make lives better.
Without Maitri, these widow mothers would have had very limited access to any necessary resources, as most of them are forced to beg or take up sex work.
In India, within a rigid patriarchal mindset, a woman is oppressed within marital norms, and if the husband dies, it gets worse for her survival. She is devoid of all basic necessities which are beyond understanding. Often blamed for her husband’s death, the woman is exploited by her in laws and left on her own. The societal stigma is so much that they are left with no other option than solitude. Hence, it becomes necessary to reach out and provide for them.
For a week, I taught children from underprivileged backgrounds, some of them, as young as 2. It was slightly difficult as these children are in different grades and it was quite a challenge for me.
However, I was able to teach and give homework to all of them, after I brushed off my nervousness. It was a very different experience and a learning opportunity.
Maitri has also collaborated with Teach India, to train young individuals to get jobs after a 3 month course in English; I accompanied these young adults for their annual job fair, and to my delight, most of the students got jobs that day.
In today’s times, possessing the working knowledge of English really helps and I feel that training these adults in the same is very beneficial for their future.
The internship experience was very useful overall, as other than learning a lot of things, I also grasped how to apply the same. Even if I was accompanying a senior to the field, there was so much to learn and understand how communities and society functions. I was able to recognize as to why access to education is so difficult and even after provision of the same, how much effort it takes to convince the people and make them trust an organization.
The office staff and the other interns are all very friendly and helpful. Not even once did I hesitate to ask a question or for help from anyone. I believe that this kind of positivity in the work environment also makes a big difference.
I want to thank Maitri for giving me this opportunity and making my summer special.