A few weeks ago I traveled to India for Women on Wings for the fifth time. But actually, it was the first time that I really experienced how important it is to create jobs for women in rural areas.
Together with Supriya I visited Sahaj, a social enterprise for women’s development in the rural area around Dahod in Gujarat. We went there to assess if Sahaj was eligible to become one of the business partners of Women on Wings. So we boarded the (too) early morning flight to Vadodara (pronounce: Wadodra), then drove about 3 hours by cab to arrive in Dahod around noon. The trip itself was very comfortable, thanks to great roads in Gujarat. During his term as Chief Minister of Gujarat, Mister Modi – now India’s Prime Minister – invested heavily in infrastructure.
Dahod, literally meaning “two boundaries”, is a small town at the border of Gujarat, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, and is inhabited largely by tribal groups. The region is also infamous for its notorious activities, especially along the Indore highway. Officially it is a “dry state” (non-alcoholic), but bottles of liquor are sold in stalls right by the side of the road.
Truly, a challenging region.
At Dahod we were welcomed by Jabeen, founder and CEO of Sahaj – of course not before we left “our egos and shoes at the doorstep”. She told us everything about the history of Sahaj and showed us around. We talked to several people, had a good look at the processes and were quite impressed by the way everything was organized.
This time of the year is “the wedding season” which means there are parties and fireworks day and night. Add to that the fact that our hotel was close to a bus and train station and you can imagine that we had a “noisy” night. Next morning we enjoyed a quick “road side breakfast” consisting of poha and kachori. Supriya told me that the Gujarati people really love street food and I have to admit, it was a bit heavy but delicious.
This morning, after starting the working day with meditation and singing, we had an intense meeting with the team. The women told us about their work and their personal life. And even though most of them spoke in Hindi and Gujarati, I could almost feel their everyday struggle for a better future for themselves and their children. They all have the same personal dream: to own their own house. Sadly no wonder, considering the dependent position of women in most tribes. I was truly touched and it made me realize once more how privileged I am. After the meeting we visited a village where the women worked on beaded jewelry and also the Sahaj Campus. There we saw more examples of the products that Sahaj makes and of how happy the women are to be able to work and earn their own income.
On the way back to the airport we concluded: Sahaj is more than a work place for women, it also is a shelter sometimes and truly an organization devoted to encourage women’s development. The word Sahaj means “simple” but the goals of Sahaj are not simple at all. On the contrary, they will not be reached easily, so it would be great if Sahaj can improve and expand with the future support of Women on Wings.