WLTC Photo Series
Masuma is a community worker with WLTC.
These images are from Jania, Barpeta district
Women in Jania have to walk several kilometres to reach this river every time they want to wash dishes, bathe or fetch drinking water because tube wells have not been installed here yet. This river is their only source of water.
Women also have to walk several kilometres daily to collect wood, at times even swimming in the river to collect small floating wood pieces. These are then either used as firewood or sold for additional income. Most women from her village forage wood in a similar manner.
I visited four villages, including Kandapara, Sidhani, Shitoli and Shawrachara, for this research. The restricted movements during the lockdown meant that I couldn’t visit all the places I originally wanted to. So instead, I had to speak to some women over the phone. The people in these villages are from low socio-economic backgrounds and after interviewing all of them, I realised how the present lockdown has further worsened their finances and living conditions. We’ve also provided them with training on health and safety as awareness on these issues is largely inadequate.
Farming is the chief source of livelihood for most of these women and some are daily wage workers. There are also widows and single mothers who are the sole earners in the family. The depletion of work during the lockdown has meant that food and medicine are in short supply. Some families are at risk of facing a serious food crisis.
The situation in these areas has been further aggravated by the fact that most women have no access to formal education and are economically and emotionally reliant on their husbands or the male members in the family. Domestic violence is an everyday reality for most, but they are unwilling to speak up. Awareness programmes on gender parity and women’s rights and privileges are dire needs. They should also receive financial support to help them get through the pandemic.
While these women find the present daunting, they remain clueless about their future. What will they do for a living once the lockdown is lifted?
Photo series co-ordinated by Banamallika Choudhury of WLTC and Sampurna Das a doctoral student at the Department of Sociology, Delhi School of Economics, University of Delhi.
WLTC is a feminist organisation based in Assam, working towards gender and social equality. It focuses on enhancing women’s capacities and creating space and opportunity for women (cis and trans) to take decision-making and leadership positions within families, communities, in governance and politics.