Dehradun : Women in Uttarakhand have to do the majority of work, which is not limited to the domestic chores of cooking and cleaning alone. From going to the forests and bringing head loads of fuel wood for the hearth and fodder for the cattle to fetching water from the natural water sources, which could be far away, to ensuring that the cattle let out to graze in the forests and tied to their posts when they return in the evening, theirs is hard work 24X7.
In fact it would not be out of place here to say that the men folk, except when it is time to sow the fields have normally no work. After ploughing the fields their main work is over for even the harvesting is done by the women. The men spend most of the time sitting at the ‘chaubars’ smoking the ‘hookah’ and playing cards, even as the women have no respite.
But way back in 1956, when women empowerment was still a distant dream and had not got the present day hype, some progressive youth of Shukri village, in Pratapnagar block of Tehri Garhwal, seeing that the women folk had no respite from their daily grind, decided that at least in their village they would have a day off.
And they started the tradition that women in their village would have Sunday as their day off. And but for the domestic chores of cooking and cleaning, it was decided that they would not go to the forests for fuel wood or fodder and not even to the fields to pull out the weeds or take the cattle out for grazing.
The tradition which survives to day has been kept alive by subsequent gram pradhans of the village. Says former pradhan of the village, Sunita Kuriyal, “We have kept the tradition alive in the better interests of the village and its women folk. On Sundays, which is their day off, we encourage them to spend time on the education of their children”.
Though there has been much talk of social empowerment to women, but in the villages of Uttarakhand, they are so tied down by the work that the women hardly have a day off or time out to look into their own well being or the well being of their children. But in Shukri village the story is different and one can see the difference the off day is making in the lives of the women.
It is now being hoped that the progressive youth of other villages I n this small mountain state will take a leaf out of Shukri and try to implement the same Sunday day off for women tradition in their villages, which will give them some respite from their heavy daily grind.
Painting courtesy: Mountain Shepherds