I am currently in the process of collecting data on the healthcare system in under-resourced settings in Delhi, with a focus on women. During my time here, I have repeatedly been struck by the strength of the average Indian women. Not just the women I meet during my fieldwork but also women from around my locality, who my aunt tells me about. These are women who will never be on the front page of a magazine cover or in the list of the world’s most powerful women because they are making impact closer to home.
I met women who have gone out of their comfort zone, some with kids only a few months old, to volunteer to talk to people in their locality to convince them to install toilets, visit the hospital, and get children immunized. I met women who studied till 8th or 10th grade and couldn’t further their education because they got married but have succeeded in sending their daughters to college or are working hard to do so. I have heard of an old but tireless woman, who I can see from my window---washing clothes at an age when she should be resting. She has cancer and has had multiple surgeries and her body is bent from a lifetime of work. These are mothers, wives, and daughters from humble backgrounds. Their husbands may be auto-rickshaw drivers, shopkeepers, or men who do whatever work they get. And they not only manage to run the household but go above and beyond.
One ASHA worker I met shyly told me that the reason she started working was to get an excuse to move out of the house and interact with people. Another woman told me that even today, she would like to continue her education if she gets the chance. These are women with hopes, dreams, and aspirations. Over time, these may have changed or they may have found unexpected avenues to fulfil them. But their aspirations are never lost. They still strive to do the best they can in what they do. And to them, it’s all in a day’s work.
If there is one thing I take away from my time here, it is learning what it means to be a woman.