Like my husband, can I also wear a T-shirt and shorts? Why can’t I wear this kind of dress every day outside the home? I thought why it is like the women have to be fully dressed up every time and everywhere.

Just because of the societal norms and customs we are bound to wear the dresses which are already being decided. Again a question disturbs me – for whom and by whom? Hardly anybody can answer. Why can’t people think independently for choosing their dresses?

One night I decided to wear a T-shirt and half-pants of my husband. The firm decision I ever took as the first step to challenge the gender norms. I felt very comfortable after wearing them. I shared the incident with my friends in the village. Their reactions were not so positive towards me. They said,

“Aapko laaj nahi aa raha hai bhabi….? aap yeh sab baatein kaise soch rahi hain………bhala log kya kahenge (Are you not feeling ashamed of yourself? How do you think about all these things…………What people will say)”?

It was irritating to me that I have to lead my life according to the societal norms. Do I not have the right to live according to my wishes?

By the way, I am Shanti Devi from Ormanjhi Block of Ranchi district…..

In our community, there is a stereotypical thought that women are supposed to clean the agriculture field like plucking the grasses. Then I started thinking why do men cannot do these kinds of work.  I gradually started convincing my husband to accompany me for doing this particular work. My husband after listening to the demand began yelling at me and said, “What would the community people say if I start cleaning the agricultural field with you.” He desperately wanted to contradict me, to tell me I was dead wrong.

I clarified my husband not to hear what the community people are saying.

It took me many days to convince my husband.

Suddenly, one morning my husband woke me up for giving accompany in the field. One more step to challenge the gender norms.

We both got engaged in the work for two to three hours whereas the community people used to taunt and laugh at us. After some days it was observed that few of my friends along with their husbands also started to engage in that particular work. Gradually, my friends started talking about the gender equality during the village meetings. In the year 2017, it was seen that there was equal involvement of both the men and women in the agriculture.

I want to show my heartfelt gratitude to the Gender Resource Centre (GRC). I received various training from the Gender Resource Centre which helped me a lot to understand the concept and meaning of gender and gender-based discrimination.

Henceforth, I had the will to change myself on the basis of gender rights perspective.

“I believe that change happens if someone takes the initiative to do it and make it happen.”

Hopefully, I am trying my level best to change the stereotypical thought of the society…Lot more changes are yet to come.

Written by Tanaya Nag as narrated by Shanti Devi (Para-Legal caseworker under the ASHMITA network) & Edited by Mujeebu Rahman