Arvind describes himself as a dominating husband who was focused entirely on his own needs – until he took part in Join My Village’s Maternal and Neonatal Health program. He says, “Earlier when I used to come back from work, if the food my wife had cooked was not of my liking I used to throw it away. But when I joined the Join My Village team and noticed that I was not implementing the teachings I was passing onto the others, I decided to change for the better.”
I understand that I am setting an example for others around and I can see the change.
Arvind describes some of his learnings about gender equality, which he now shares as a community leader when he reaches out to the youth and couples in the villages. “We learned how gender roles have been created by society and have been passed on from generation to generation but are actually detrimental to the society. There is no such thing as specific work that can be done only by men or by women. Both men and women can do the same tasks. So that’s when we realized as a couple that if we are going and disseminating this message to other people then we ought to bring this change in ourselves too” says Arvind.
Explaining how he is different now, Arvind says, “I have reached a point now where I wash the utensils daily, clean the house when my wife is unable to manage, and I grind the spices for cooking. It’s all part of my daily habit now. If I am washing my own clothes I always wash hers as well.” Suman adds that he does these chores even in the presence of his mother – he doesn’t suddenly change his behaviour because she’s around.
Arvind is also passing his learnings on to his son and hopes he will do the same for his wife in the future. Speaking proudly of his son Arvind says, “When he visited my mother while she was ill some time ago, she was shocked to see him clean the place and keep it spic and span. Ten days he took care of her, cleaning and cooking daily! So when I visited her and I was doing the same things that I do in my own home, with extreme curiosity my mother asked me where I had learnt to start doing all this and I informed her about Join My Village.” His son even told his grandfather, when asked why he was doing traditionally women’s work, “If my father does them why should I not?”
Arvind’s own father, a teacher by profession who had never done any household chores, has started washing the utensils after seeing Arvind help his wife. “He used to get angry with me when he used to see me doing all those jobs but now he is a changed man,” Arvind says. “He tells me you were right Arvind and I was wrong. Sometime you should make me meet these change-makers you work for,” referring to Join My Village staff.
Standing out from the crowd and doing something different always draws all sorts of reactions from the people watching, so I asked Arvind what negative reactions he faced. He replied, “It’s true people used to make fun of me at the start, my sister-in-law being one of them, but gradually after having in-depth conversations with them about what I learnt at the Join My Village meetings, slowly they have also started understanding these ‘foreign’ concepts.”
For example, one of Arvind’s neighbours saw him doing household chores and was very shocked but soon he too started washing clothes, cooking and doing other tasks. Initially he would wash the utensils at night only but now he does it in the morning in front of everyone, observing no disparity between chores that his wife can do and he can do.
Arvind says, “I understand that I am setting an example for others around and I can see the change. They become curious and come and ask me why are you doing all these things and that’s when I get to have such discussions with them and tell them about Join My Village, so now my neighbours are also following my example. Everyone in the field and in the village know that we ourselves follow gender equality in the true sense.” Becoming part of the Join My Village family and adopting its learnings has indeed been a milestone in the life of this couple.