My alarm goes off at 5 am. I am nowhere near ready to arise, but reluctantly force myself out of bed and throw what I need for the day into my backpack. Most importantly: Laptop and camera with battery fully charged. After a three-minute walk to the WRRP office from my hotel and I am already sweating. Shubhakamana (WRRP staff, about my age) has some bread and jam ready for breakfast on the roof. We eat it and enjoy the breeze while we both agree that it was too early to be heading out for the day’s work. We intend to travel to a nearby village (two-hour bus ride) in order to speak with some of the women that painted panels for the quilt project that the previous WRRP intern, Kate had done. I am also hoping to capture footage to better understand the work these women do on a daily basis.
We catch the first rickshaw we see along the road to the main market, and switch to the bus where we wait until it fills with passengers. Once it is full, aisle included, we began the long stretch to the village of Rajbiraj. I do not enjoy the man who is standing in the aisle, leaning on my shoulder although it was his chair. Shubhakamana makes a motion to say something to him, and I tell her not to worry, if it really bothers me I will give him a small shove or maybe pinch. We both laugh. What’s another over-crowded bus in forty-degree weather?
We arrive at 10 am, about 2 hours behind schedule, as often happens with Nepalese public transit. The field coordinator is there to meet us, along with two of the village women. We exchange greetings, and began walking through the village of mud and brick houses, with roofs of dried grass, and the smell of livestock. We draw some stares, as foreigners such as myself are rarely seen in this remote area. We stop at one of the houses, and are brought to the water pump to freshen up. The water is cool and clean. We sit down on the front porch, taking our sandals off before we go up the steps, even though the floor is actually made of mud. Shubhakamana begins to speak in Maithili, the local language, explaining that we are here to show them their videos, as they have not seen them before. We also like to learn about their work and shoot some video showing the type of work women do in this village.
We show them their videos with my Macbook, and talk about uterine prolapse, which at least one of them has experienced and received surgery for. After this, the women are eager to provide us with an example of the work they engage in at this time of year. Shubhakamana and I are lead out into the middle of a field of rice paddies by three of the women. Ewakari, the most outgoing, is very animated in describing the work and is excited to show us. I tell her she should be an actress, and she agrees.
We arrive where there appears to be some smaller green sprouts in the middle of the never-ending field rice paddies. Turns out, these are the “seeds”. The two women jump right into the cubic swamp and began to rip up the seeds and shake off excess mud. I realize later that they are doing this because they eventually carry a large cluster of these seeds on their heads, tied together with long blades of grass, to the planting area. We follow them as they lead us there.
They began planting the rice, singing Maithili folk songs as they go. They ask me if I’d like to try planting. I of agree of course, and join them in the paddy. They laugh as I attempted to plant the rice as quickly as they did in perfect rows. I fail miserably, but enjoy their reaction. After I climb back onto the path because I am only getting in the way, one of the women pull out a clump of seeds from the mud and show me how there are LEECHES clinging to it. I quickly do a thorough check of my legs, feet and hands as they again laugh.
Never again will I enter a rice paddy, however, the point was certainly made. These are the kind of physically demanding chores that rural women are expected to perform day in and day out, monsoon or shine. After an hour, it was time to have some lunch at Ewakari’s home, and talk about the Uterine Prolapse Network the women of this area have formed to empower women and educate women and their families on the issue. More to come…
Posted By Chelsea Ament
Posted Jul 20th, 2011