As we talk about women’s role in public life and politics, I’d like to suggest that at some point organizations like Prajnya begin to record how women have negotiated everyday life over the years. We don’t think about it but it’s deeply fascinating how women’s public life has also shaped their everyday social interactions, and vice-versa. By public life I mean not merely activities to do with governance, but their lives ‘out there in the public.’
Long ago I read a book Listen to the Heron’s Words which was about how women in a particular part of Afghanistan deal with their patriarchal family life. They get together regularly and have these song sessions, meant only for women, in which they basically ridicule their spouses and patriarchal tradition and it’s a barrel of laughs. The men even take them there, drop them there for their evening out, and leave them well alone to enjoy this time. The book was about the different ways in which women build community and social structures that better suit their needs.
It made me think then about all the women/girls who work as domestic help in all our homes. Have you noticed how they have an endless number of relatives? One day they don’t know someone, the next day that person is an uncle or brother or aunt or niece who’s in need of a job or plays some other very vital role in their lives. How much of this is women’s way of coping with a hostile environment (after all, however nice we think we are to them, we don’t know how we come across).
Is this their way of creating secure social structures to make it easier to cope with their public life in our cities?
Just a thought…..