We as intellects talk among ourselves, read sections in newspapers and consume varied content on the internet about gender equality and women empowerment. We express our concerns in terms of gender equality for those women who work in offices, for the girl child who should get an opportunity as a right to education. Great!!! I thank all of you who have such concerns to elevate this society in this aspect of gender equality.
But how many of us gave a thought to the class of women working in the lower income groups or categories, especially where there are male dominance stereotypes. The why’s of the hostilities these women face to earn bread for their families, midst of vultures around them who sometimes considers even that lower income work as a male-dominated profession. And the woman struggling, again have to think about her bread, her family, her security and her survival from these jackals.
I have been living in Delhi for more than 6 years now. Except for the time of 7 months last year, in which I was in Bareilly due to my job switch. Delhi is a place where you can find garbage dumps or slums on one end of the road and a lavish posh 5-star hotel or mall at the other end of that small stretch. It’s a place where you can find even woman running e-rickshaws for their livelihood.
In this post, I am writing about a woman seemingly in her late thirties I met once, outside Subhash Nagar metro station in West Delhi, while I was returning home from my office.
The thin body woman wearing a rugged salwar suit and her stole wrapped around her waist. She was standing with her e-rickshaw and shrieking to her possible customers so that she can fare them to their respective destinations and finally she can earn ten or at maximum 20 rupees per head in the peak rush hours. I walked towards her, as ultimately I also had to take e-rickshaw only. She looked at me with a smile on her face and said ” Baitho Sir”. I smiled in return at the expression and tone with which she called me “Sir”. See, you can see professionalism even in rickshaw pullers in Delhi. Isn’t it? She fared me and the other companions to the destinations and cycle repeats for her again to earn 10-20 rupees.
That day I kept thinking about that woman. What situations might have compelled her to pull rickshaws which majorly is a profession picked by men of lower income group? Who all are there in her family? And a lot of other questions which I even couldn’t figure out at that point
After a few days, while returning from office, I again saw that woman standing outside the metro station. This time I sat her in her rickshaw and reserved it for myself only, till my drop point. Obviously, she didn’t recognize me. Me being like every other face, a face of the crowd for her sitting in her rickshaw.
On the way, out of the respect and concern I developed for her in the last few days, I called her Ma’am and asked: ” Why do you drive this e-rickshaw in this extremely hot weather being a woman?” At this, she burst in laughter and replied, “Sir, why are you calling me ma’am? I only know, of what reasons, situations or circumstances of my life I have entered into all this. And what all I face daily out here to even carry this out.”
At her reply, when I probed further, she told that this rickshaw belonged to her husband. He was poisoned by a few men and looted all his money and earnings collected by him for the family. Since then, she is driving that rickshaw to earn wages for her family.
This rickshaw is the only source of income she has to feed her children. She has 3 children. 2 girls and a younger son. She told that every other rickshaw puller with whom she stands at pick up points look at her in sexually absurd ways. Gets warned pointlessly by many of them not to drive her rickshaw, as she is a woman and a competition as well. She feels very insecure for her 2 daughters that who will look after them if something happens to her tomorrow.
But she will again drive her rickshaw tomorrow morning killing stereotypes. L
All my way down to my place and she been driving, she kept sharing her pain and situations as if she has got someone to listen to her after a long time.
After listening to all she shared, the question stands, ” Does gender equality loses all its meaning for her?” She is a rickshaw driver, working in lower income labour groups. Doesn’t she deserve respect in society? Respect from each and every person who comes to her rickshaw? Respect from every rickshaw drivers who belong to the same class of work.
Ideally, she should have been treated by the other rickshaw drivers equal to them. There are no reservations or quotas for them a such. Why do they then suppress her to carry out her job or task while being called a woman?
“You don’t have to be a man to work in the outdoors.”
Irrespective of whether a woman works in a corporate office or she is a hawker or a rickshaw driver, she must be treated equally and respectfully by every man as well as a woman.
Just think once about that woman rickshaw driver I met. The courage she has in herself. The sense of responsibility she holds towards her children. And the strength to fight against all odds. “Doesn’t she deserve respect and thus equality? Standing as equally as you or any woman working into corporates or every man who thinks of his gender’s dominance over anything in this world?”
Surprise, suspicion, and doubt come into people’s mind after they notice a woman working in lower income groups. That woman is looked upon with suspicion. The suspicion which can serve the manly body needs of a few f**king jackals ogling at her.
Despite the artificial pretence that sexism is somehow an outworn concept, gender bias is still highly prevalent, and noticeable, in these low-income work areas. This gender equality is not present at all levels or is omnipresent as we think it is.
That lady I met mustn’t have planned her life this way that she would be driving rickshaws and shrieking out loud to fare her passengers. But at least the situations she is into and many other women like her, the people and the world must understand. People must let them live without futile intricacies and pressures.
We should encourage respect and gender equality for working women professionals as well as the women working in difficult situations and hostilities to run their livelihood. Listen to them and help them in whatever possible way you can help. They are here to work. They are here to taste success and happiness.
Read other such topics arising from my deep thoughts by clicking here.