There was an article today on the BBC website title “No country for single women“. In the article, the author reflects on conversations with four single women in India, who are successful but unmarried. So much of what these women said resonates with my experiences and the experiences of my “single” women friends in India. I’ve always felt that while women from middle-class families are encouraged to get educated and have a career, but that does not mean that the societal pressure to get married in your early 20’s goes away. It only means that now you have more things that you are expected to do, besides being someone’s wife, daughter-in-law, and mother. And if you choose to wait, or choose to not make getting married your goal in life, then of course there must be something wrong with you. Maybe you are not into men? or maybe you have a psychological disorder? or maybe you are hard to get along with? Because God forbid you not want to get married when its “time” to get married. How can any “normal” woman not want a husband and children? In the article, the author writes:
“There were cases where people told my parents that educating their daughter and letting her become an independent person had been a grave mistake. Now their daughter has high expectations and getting her married has become so difficult! I can’t thank my parents enough for shouldering that burden. They are a great support but I keep wondering what to do to make it easier for them. I am much less worried about myself. I know that being with the wrong man would be far worse than being by myself.”
Also, these are not conversations you have with just your parents. No! everyone and anyone will ask you why you are not married from the rickshawallas to the drivers to the aunty at the bus stop. This is one of the reasons why I moved to the US. Cities such as Bombay, might afford single women a certain independence and lifestyle that they couldn’t have before and can’t have in other cities, but there is no escaping the fact that you chose not to be “normal”. Because at the end of the day that’s what it is! By not getting married and making an informed choice not to be married, you have challenged the age-old understanding of Indian women as just daughters, mothers and sisters. While we as a society can feel great pride in the fact that Indian women are increasingly becoming part of the formal workforce, and that more women are going into higher education than ever before. That’s where it stops. But the thing is, I and my friends who are not married, didn’t choose not to get married at 26 or 27 or 28, not because we wanted to challenge social norms. We chose to not be married because we wanted more from our lives. This doesn’t mean that women who are married have lesser lives, their life paths are just different from ours. Does it mean we will never marry…..not really. We are not giving up the choice to marry, we are just choosing to define our own life paths.
I returned to Rio de Janeiro on May 20th to begin ethnographic fieldwork for my PhD in Urban Geography. Within weeks, tens of thousands of Brazilians had taken to the streets in São Paulo, initially led by the small band of urban activists known as Movimento Passe Livre (The Free Fare Movement). By June 21st one million were marching on the streets of Rio de Janeiro and hundreds of thousands more demonstrating in 100 cities throughout the country.
I attended the first marches in Rio and dozens since. I began to observe, participate, photograph, take notes, and record interactions between protestors, bystanders, union activists, and police officers. I’ve closely followed public debates in mainstream, alternative and intellectual media, tracked various activist-leaders through social media, and discussed the protests at every possible social opportunity.
Over the coming months I’ll share some of my experiences and observations about the urban unrest from…
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In this post of the Relational Poverty Network blog, Nick talks about how the first step to (un)knowing poverty is to become aware of poverty around you. But, at the same time not to make assumptions about what it means. I will post more about this soon, but Nick’s post is worth a read. The task of (un)knowing poverty is a difficult one, for conversations about poverty are everyone and therefore, we all assume what it means.
“……we argued that opening participatory arenas is not sufficient to empower the most marginalized citizens. The urban poor often reveal to be uncomfortable, helpless if not apathetic when invited to participate in the public sphere. To put it very bluntly, organizing meetings and joyfully cheering citizens to “Speak up! Speak up!” does not appear as the most relevant strategy to make them “speak”.”
This quarter in my TA class as well as in the courses I’ve been taking, participatory planning and indeed the power of participation has been the topic of hot debate. This two part blog post should be read by anyone interested in participatory planning or research because it really brings to the fore and questions assumptions that we are want to make as planners and researchers. To me it also clarifies the fact that depending on the context, one has to be really cognisant of where the community it in terms of active participation. In the Global North and in a many places in the Global South, groups are very aware of their latent power, and actively participate to further their ‘interests’, but there are still those that do not recognise or dismiss it. The strategies of how we address and work with these two types of groups are very different. Both require us to let go of some very intrinsic understandings of our roles as researchers.