Palash power in Purulia
The usual never interests me. I knew I would not find the elusive, colorful Palash flower at this of the year in Purulia but I still hoped to find that one fresh twist in the routine, mundane sanitation, gender stories that would make me say that not only the Palash flowers bloom here but so do the Palash flower girls and the Palash women, who are painting this district in the most vivid empowering colors. The colors that display their innermost urge to break free and chart their own route.
And just as I thought, I found that much-sought-after twist in Purulia women’s will to think out of the box, do something different from others, generate income not just for oneself but for their fellow sisters, mates in the self-help groups and most importantly not make a big deal about it. And it is not just in building toilets or creating awareness about using sanitary napkins but zeroing in on a number of other avenues, which can be eye-openers for women not only in other districts of West Bengal but other states as well.
Schoolgirls, barely 12-15 years seemed well rehearsed about sanitary napkins and their usage but what was not well practiced was their confidence in dealing with outsiders, especially the media. The Kanyashree clubs are in different forms in all other states but what outshone and was different amongst these Kanyashree girls from Purulia was their leadership qualities, their ability to tackle every tricky question with an unusual confidence that belied their age. Kanyashree clubs seem to be nurturing women leaders of tomorrow.
Women masons build toilets now, earning a paltry Rs 2,200 now. Their earnings are small but what is big for them is their family’s acceptance that no work is hard enough for women to get bogged down.
Admitting that the work is hard and difficult, mason Shikha Rani Mahato has no reasons to quit. She wants to pursue it as long as she can, be it extreme heat or chilling cold. She wants to keep building – not just toilets but her own house and her own dreams, which would never ever be trampled upon.
Not just April-May, I found Palash do bloom here in every season. Nothing to pull back Palash, power and Purulia women.
For UNICEF India – SAWM India Media Initative on Gender & Sanitation