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27 March 2018

The Plight of Rural Indian Women

The tolerance of nearly 400 million women of rural India is admirable. Most women residing in our villages do not even realise that the problems they face every day are national issues. For them, being born is an achievement in itself. You know that gender disparity and female infanticide exists in India. But do you know the numbers? Over 3 million girls were killed in the last decade alone even before they were born. Shocked?

Women in Indian villages lack basic amenities such as the regular supply of clean water, electricity, toilets and gas cylinders. While our country is working towards building top-class factories and shopping malls, a majority of our rural women still defecate in the open risking rape and diseases due to the lack of hygiene and sanitation awareness. Nearly a million women in rural areas die every year due to household air pollution caused by cooking fumes. While the government, in this fiscal budget, has promised to provide 8 crore gas connections to rural households under the Ujjwal Yojna, the implementation of that is yet to be seen.

According to the Global Hunger Index Report 2017, India ranked 97th out of 118 countries with a serious hunger situation. 70% of women residing in rural areas of Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Haryana, and Jharkhand suffer from moderate-to-severe anaemia. The traditional approach of eating last in the family combined with the increasing prices of daily essential food items is the prime cause behind malnutrition in females residing in rural areas. Apart from the dearth of basic amenities, rural Indian women have no rights or voice when it comes to decision making, thanks to our patriarchal society and the rule of Khap Panchayats.

Hailing from a rural district in Maharashtra, Kalpana Saroj was just 12 when she was married to an older man. Abused physically and mentally by her husband and in-laws she attempted suicide at 16. Timely intervention by her family saved Kalpana’s life. With gritty determination and by beating staggering odds, she managed to turn her life around and become a successful entrepreneur. Awarded the highest civilian honour – the Padma Shri – she is an inspiration for millions of victims who suffer in silence. Every third woman in India faces physical and sexual violence at home. Till date, the government has allocated INR200 crores to the Nirbhaya Fund to aid victims of sexual abuse and improve women safety. An additional INR322 crores was assigned to Computer Aided Disptach to respond to distress calls at the earliest. However, we are yet to see any effective utilisation of these funds.

These serious problems have only one solution; these rural women have only one hope – the National Women’s Parliament (NWP). As a non-political organisation committed to women’s causes, we consider good health and quality education as the stepping stone to make a difference. With our partnership with foundations such as SNEHA, the Indian Cancer Society, Door Step School and Pratham, we are tackling the problems of malnutrition and education, and working to ensure that the voice of the women living in the remote interiors of India is heard.

It is a reality that there exists a stark difference between urban and rural India. Despite various schemes initiated by the government, women of rural India live a life of anonymous hardship and suffer in silence. It is our vision to diminish the existing gap. If you know any women suffering from these grim issues or feel empathy for them, you can pledge your support by joining NWP and bring about a meaningful change in their lives.

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