The words from one of our eminent women leader late Mrs. Indira Gandhi addressing in her speech 'What educated women can do' at the Golden Jubilee Celebrations Of The Indra prastha College For Women New Delhi, India November 23, 1974, "An ancient Sanskrit saying says, woman is the home and the home is the basis of society. It is as we build our homes that we can build our country. If the home is inadequate, either inadequate in material goods and necessities or inadequate in the sort of friendly, loving atmosphere that every child needs to grow and develop; then that country cannot have harmony and no country which does not have harmony can grow in any direction at all" .Its 65 years now since India has got its independence, if we look back into women achievements there are women who are now coming up in flying colors in businesses, academics, politics, media etc, women have created there space in society now, having an identity not only at home but also outside the home. But the general question is how far the marginalized group has able to reach the main stream of the society? By marginalized I mean the tribal women group here. The women in tribal society are less literate to reach to the chord of the main stream today, whereas it is less hassle for urban women. This is because she is avail with well equipped resources and massive awareness where gates are open for her to fly and get her an identity. The tribal women are less oriented and lack of resources to reach to the level where she should have been today. I was illusioned by this thought when I saw the 'Kanya Ashram' at Gonasika G.P of Keonjhar district. Gonasika G.P is tribal dominated vicinity where ITDA (Integrated Tribal Development Agency) does most of the developmental activities. One of the contemporary initiatives by the ITDA is the preface of Kanya ashram (a residential school for girl child) in Juang Primitive tribal areas.
I was fortunate to visit the Kanya ashram on one of my field visit. The moment we reached their, the entire place was appearing muted. It must be the rain drizzle which was obstructing the children to enjoy the huge play ground in front of the school premises says my conscious mind. As we walked through the school premises large crowd ran towards me. I was stunned by seeing the small girls running towards me to touch the feet. The more I wanted to stop them all they were all seems to be in competition to touch my feet. Was it a way to welcome us? I asked the Juang special development officer, yes madam says the head master of the school. The officer was sitting in a room (a very Bureaucracy manner!!) having two people standing next him, carrying the attendance file and other project related files. He appears to be patronizing in character talking in a very admonishment and horrified manner to the people there. The scene went on for nearly 5-6min till he realized that some visitors are waiting to talk to him. 'Yes sir how can I help' says the Juang special development officer to us. As the conversation went further on issues related to forest right and the development in juang pidha, he gave a very sarcastic remark about the Juang tribes 'no matter how much we make them educate and create development, they will remain addicted to alcohol' says the officer raising his eyebrow. I was not much convinced to such kind of statement about the Juangs, because to me the development and education programs are not implemented in correct procedure by the JDA for the empowerment of the Juangs. As we walked through the class rooms, I saw a dark room containing 15-20 children sitting three each on the bunk-bed, children half bend and the teacher teaching them. This was something unusual to me I felt so uncomfortable seeing the children studying in such atmosphere. All most all the room was appearing dark having no current and some girls were seen taking rest. When we walk towards the toilet area there were 4-5 toilets having no water facilities. 'The children here are too stubborn, they don't listine to us and try to run away from the school when they get angry' says the care taker. I was not surprise to the care taker reply because I could see the sign of distress on children faces staying away from their community. Our visit to the ashram was coming to the end, when we were to leave; the children came to wish us back. I felt there is a vacuum in the residential school, with lack of lively and friendly upbringing. While coming back the cheerless faces of the small girls were trying to tell me 'Ohh stranger take us along with you, so that we could able to enjoy the fresh air, the wet mud, and the rain outside, Ohh Stanger listen to our suffocation inside the dark room and the cemented walls, make us free to breath, take us to our village, yes the village where we have the hut, manda ghar, grama debi, pet animals, we miss our family and the shouting neighbors.'
The way the children were kept in the residential school was not appreciable; my heart was pondering why the school is situated far from their own community? Why they have to live in this manner? What will be the future of these girls? Will they be able to get good education in such circumstances?
About Author / Additional Info:
I am a researcher based in Odisha, graduated from the University of East London. My area of interest includes displacement, tribal rights, refugee, forced migration, forest right etc