In Himachal Pradesh, much like the rest rural India, women are restricted from pursuing certain tasks that go beyond their conventional gender roles and are often held to a lower regard when compared to men in matters such as land ownership. Women are subjected to derive their self worth first from the identity of their fathers, and then from that of their husbands. Women in these parts are seldom able to escape the cultural prison that is built around them. Due to the inherent privilege that men possess given to them by conventional cultural practices, they tend to be less enthusiastic about reform in the existing social structure. Often we notice that due the aforementioned privilege men can enjoy drinking, gambling, smoking and partying for weeks with their local Devtas anytime, while women are left at home doing most of the work.
Shortly after the ecotourism cooperative was registered, again with the help of interns, we approached women relatives of our cooperative members. Our aim was to bring them together to think and to consider a few activities they could do to ensure their own financial security and self-reliance. Interns of Indian origin could communicate very well to the women whereas the Foreign interns had brought some specific knowledge about value-addition. This mix was good and the initial movement turned out to be quite successful.
A challenge arose after our interns completed their tenure in following up on the progress of the newly formed women Self-Help Groups (SHGs) in which we ended up struggling to find a balance between this new SHG and our existing Cooperative.
Now that Himalayan Ecotourism is back on track and in a better position given the functioning of the cooperative is becoming increasingly independent, we are able to refocus our efforts towards strengthening the women SHGs and we look forward to their invaluable assistance with our “Stop Forest Fires” project.
To know more about our work for women empowerment, see also: