Women don’t need a power suit and a leather briefcase to prove themselves in the world. To some, all it takes is determination to make something happen. When you go to Kumaon, a hard-working woman isn’t a hard find. You’ll find them growing vegetables, you’ll find them collecting grass for cattle, you’ll find them climbing the tallest trees for cattle fodder and you’ll find them with a kind of strength quite hard to find elsewhere.
On the occasion of International Women’s Day, while we’re all choosing to challenge gender inequality and bias, there are four Kumaoni women who have not only challenged the gender norms that they were born in, but have also succeeded in uplifting themselves and those around them and we would like to tell you all about them.
Chetna completed her schooling from Vidyasagar and then completed her education with a MSc. In Botany. Somehow, she found the time to practice a traditional folk-art form called ‘Aipan’ and realised her passion. Today, Chetna spends her days teaching kids, and gets the occasional invite to step out of Kumaon to train people with the same art form.
A photo of Chetna Rawat standing in front of her famous ‘Aipan’ art.
While Deepti chose to stay in Kumaon to give back to her culture up-close, Deepti shifted to Delhi, and spends almost every weekend in Kumaon. Heading the sales team of our marketing ally, ETroupers, she has paved an amazing path in hospitality industry. Her love for the mountains and picturesque plains is evident from her dialogue with the guests that book their travel story with her. She constantly gives back to where she comes from by promoting tourism in Uttarakhand and while she’s home, she becomes tethered to the awe of the forests and the twisty trails of the creeks.
Deepti Rawat takes a selfie.
Words fall short when one talks about Corbett’s first female wildlife travel guide. It’s not common that you find a woman taking people on wildlife tours in our country. That’s how Urmila #choosestochallenge the norms our society has put us in.
Urmila Belwal on one of her tours with a few tourists.
The proud owner of Himayalan Mud House Art Cafe, Charu opened this restaurant/art gallery to promote the traditional art forms of Kumaon. She interacts with tourists, to promote folk music & art and every person who visits her cafe gets a good coffee with a side of conversation. Uttarakhand needs more people like Charu to give back to the place they take from.
Charu Mehra outside her café in Kasar.
While all four of these women have very different lives, one thing that all of them have in common is the urge to give back to the place that helped them grow up.
When we think of a ‘successful woman’, we instantly paint a picture in our head that involves either a power suit or a saree and if you live in India, the saree mostly comes with a very big bindi. However, the women of Kumaon prove that success or strength doesn’t come with an outfit. It can be achieved and exhibited in the simplest of ways. By collecting firewood on one’s head, by looking after a family and a farm, or by playing a traditional instrument to foreign tourists.
This women’s day, we’ve all chosen to challenge gender bias and inequality. Let’s add societal norms to that and challenge our own prejudice while we’re at it. Let’s #choosetochallenge our own thinking and celebrate all women around us, irrespective of what they wear, where they come from and what they do for a living.