A woman going to work while her husband stays home to take care of their baby; such a scenario though not common, can occasionally be seen in urban areas but in a remote village of Barabanki, Uttar Pradesh, such a set up is unheard of. That is why I was pleasantly surprised to meet Aganwadi worker Manorama, her husband Sanjay Kumar and their five-month-old daughter Aarti at the two-day gender training organized by CARE India through its Join My Village (JMV) Maternal Health Program in Barabanki. Mother of two children, Manorama brought her younger daughter along to the training. She left her older daughter, four-year-old Anjali, with her in-laws.
Taking care of Aarti would have distracted Manorama from the training and for this reason alone, her husband, Sanjay Kumar, came with her. Not only did he close his shop for two days but also spent the entire day at the training centre taking care of the baby while Manorama participated in the training. A completely non-fussy baby, Aarti went to her mother only when she needed to be fed.
“I can’t leave her alone at home. She is too young,” said Manorama. When asked if she had asked her husband to accompany her, she said he had volunteered.
A college graduate, Manorama has been married to Sanjay for seven years and has been working as an Aganwadi Worker for over a year.
In a group of 35, with many new mothers, Manorama was the only one whose husband accompanied her to take care of the baby. The others dismissed Manorama’s case as a one-off incident, saying men taking care of children while women go to work was unthinkable in villages.
Then what made Sanjay go against the social norm?
“My wife and baby are more important to me than social rules and my work. Her work is also important and if I have to suffer monetary loss for two days, it is ok. She is working for a good cause,” said Sanjay.
“There is no embarrassment in taking care of your own child; my wife does it every day. I can help out for two days at least,” he says while playing with Aarti.
Manorama too, beams with pride. “He was always supportive but has become more considerate after I started working and became associated with JMV. I share whatever I learn here with him and the change is visible to all.”
Another aspect that stood out was the bond between Aarti and Sanjay. Coming from a social background where the male child gets the majority of the father’s affection, Sanjay’s affection for the baby girl was heartening and encouraging. Leading by example, Manorama and Sanjay epitomize everything CARE and JMV have been working for in the field of gender equality.