For ages mankind has set a belief mechanism about what a women can’t do and how in every other way, men are superior. Sadly, there still are those stereotyped beliefs found everywhere in the world. This is my attempt to challenge those perceptions. And I am not going to do that through arguments rather I would share with you a real life example and leave it on you to decide that if there is any place still left to doubt women. Of all other areas, their physical capabilities are something that is questioned every now and then. What if I tell you that the women of western Himalayas of Nepal are moving mountains so that they can connect with the rest of the world?
Rural Access Program funded by UKaid is the project where I am currently working on. This project build roads to connect the remotest areas of the country to the rest of the world. Because it’s a mountainous region, traditional approach of road construction is not feasible enough. And because it is funded as a poverty alleviation program, hiring contractors to build roads would be irrational. So what it does is hire local people who live in the ‘to be build’ road corridors and train them to construct roads. It’s a labor incentive approach where roads are also constructed and poor people also get employment. Win – Win situation at both the end. I am currently at mugu district and at this place alone there are 1278 labors mobilized to build 43 KM (21 KM for now) road which shall connect their villages to the district headquarter. The interesting point is, 500 of them are women.
Women wearing hard hats, boots and gloves, smashing the hard rocks of the mountains with all their physical forces applying on the hammer. No less of a man, in fact, a lot of women are more efficient and productive. Every day these soldiers of development fight their war on the extreme conditions, chipping out tons of hard rocks from the mountains, opening the track. Some with their babies on the field and running the expenses of the house, alone because their husbands are busy drinking alcohol. Illiterate they might be but what they do here is more meaningful works than lots of politicians have ever done or will ever do. They are making a huge difference. Building roads is one hell of an important thing but they are also building a set of trends that is redefining the image of a women in our society. That too from the remotes part of the world. I had a chat with some of them and some of their answers: “We get paid and our children go to school, wear good clothes and eat good food. That is what matters the most. And what we are doing will make our village prosper in the future.” Confident woman, isn’t she? When asked about if they could match the stamina and productivity with their male counterpart’s one of them really made a hilarious statement “You can sit here and check, who is faster and efficient. We do this work every day and doing this continuously has made us strong enough to win fights over our husbands. These are just rocks.” Then she laughed. One of the group leader is a women and she controls, manages and organizes everything very effectively. Nobody complains about women being a leader of a group. Even men out here have accepted that women can be better leaders. I wonder if it’s really education that creates a better mindset because I guess these illiterate men have better perceptions about the women than many literate and qualified men of the mainstream society. I remember a woman saying “I am respected in my house like my husband. Both of us earn money and are able to feed the entire family. My father in law looks after our kids while we are working. For now everything is going good.”
They are truly an example of ‘the woman of substance’. I have come across a lot of people who seriously think that women are not as capable as men. But I always avoid them. Reason? I am not an activist of women empowerment and I have no such expertise to argue about it. And my small argument will not make them wise anyway. But these women of Karnali Region who are moving mountains here will challenge every bit of stereotypes who don’t believe in equality. Humanity is at stake because our women are not safe, are not empowered, are not encouraged enough to make a mark in the society. Sad part is, a lot of them doubt themselves too. However stories like this inspire our soul and restores out faith in mankind. I hope a better world is coming. At least at this remotest corner, it already has!