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Are You Feeling Empowered?

E…laan…g, Ela…, Elan + go… Elango!!! That’s my appa’s name!

I gamboled in happiness as a 6 year old kid. I was in my 1st grade when my dad’s employee asked me to read out something that he had typed in our digital diary. It was my dad’s name. I fondly remember how happy I was for being able to do that. But, wait. I wasn’t profoundly happy. The inner voice kept nagging, for that I wasn’t able to read it effortlessly; there are people who can do that.

16 years had gone by. Gone are the days of digital diaries. Today, I work with the women in the villages of a small, not-so-attractive coal mining areas of Chattisgarh. A state not many of us know about; which goes unnoticed most of the time for no valid reason. In terms of geography, it is one of the most fertile states I have seen (not sure if, I have seen enough) by all means. I have always lived my life in bigger cities. Today, i live in a tier 3 city much different from what, I have experienced all my life. I’m also sure that the bigger ones had more to offer than what I have experienced and, that it could have been the choices that make all the difference. Don’t cosmopolitans and metropolitans have illiterate, uneducated population? This could be the lamest accusation one could make about bigger cities. Just that it serves in a platter and you choose the tastier ones, doesn’t mean it did not board the less tasty ones.

From a person who had defined empowerment from a singular perspective (parochial!?), to someone who probably does not define it now, who understands it is much broader a spectrum. Empowerment to me, as a six-year-old kid was reading my dad’s name effortlessly from a gadget, and the degree of how empowered they are differed from how fluently they could read it. Today i work in a tier 3 city to empower women. Of late, I personally feel, they don’t actually need a person like me to ‘empower’ them. With the limited sources they have, they are already much empowered than I would have been in their place.

The term empowerment refers to measures designed to increase the degree of autonomy and self-determination in people and in communities in order to enable them to represent their interests in a responsible and self-determined way, acting on their own authority

Today, while working in a city like Korba and with the semi-rural and tribal women of the state I don’t understand ‘WHO’ has designed these measures. Double standard, it is. To the women I work with, my colleague and I, look like the paragon of empowerment (LMAO). But, are we? My amma, with an elite upbringing, with good education, which most of the women of her epoch never got, who today can do what she wants and go where she wants to go doesn’t seem as empowered as these women seem to me (With all love and reverence, I take the liberty). Neither do I feel empowered. I, recently read about this woman named Chitramani, a 60-year old (young!?) from a place called Kanchipuram in my home-state Tamil Nadu who is learning the alphabets of our mother tongue, Tamil. When the six year old me, cynically barked at her, the 22- year-old I’m now, felt a yank (an ecstatic one) when i heard her say;

‘I could now read the names of the streets and, I can now figure which bus goes to my destination and, which does not. I don’t need anyone to aid, succor me to board a bus for work or anywhere! My grandchild and I, share the same name and I taught her to write her name.’

Well, I came here to give more to the world, guilt-stricken for the life I have lived so far. Today, the 22-year-old more guilty me, also grasps that I take more than I give and, this is the reason i would want to give more.

Jayashiree Elango

2016 fellow, placed with Drishtee in Korba, Chattisgarh as part of her fellowship. Working on financial inclusion and business modelling with women self help groups and inspiring them to start small scale enterprises.

One thought on “Are You Feeling Empowered?

  1. Brilliantly put in perspective, like you always do 🙂
    With all other things, I feel empowerment was also given to us, through our families. In place of those women, we wouldn’t be half as able.

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