This is a story repeated time and again whenever RGMVP touches a new village. For eons now our country has been plagued by caste discrimination but now there is hope for the future as the story of Geeta Prajapati clearly shows us.
Here is her own story.
Discrimination is strongly rooted in our society. In my opinion it is a curse on us. Several situations in life have made me hate myself for belonging to a lower cast. Discrimination bothered me right from childhood. I often felt ashamed of myself just because of my caste.
Growing up our village was like any other but the one thing that pinched me was the difference between the lower caste and upper caste that was so apparent in our world. If one of us from a lower caste visited a higher caste persons home we were never allowed to enter inside the house. At public functions we were always made to sit separately, even at marriages we had to sit separately and made to dine last sitting on the ground. This treatment always annoyed and depressed me making me anxious to get equality in society. As a child I often asked my mother why there was this difference and discrimination towards the lower castes, but my mother would censure me “Don’t high fly otherwise we will stop your schooling”.
While my mother did succeed in keeping me quiet I was not satisfied and kept
my thoughts alive within me. Some years ago I learned that the Rajiv Gandhi Mahila Vikas Pariyojna was working for women welfare in our village, a Community Resource Person from Andhra Pradesh with came to my home and explained the benefits and importance of group. She also asked me to join the group. Belonging to a lower caste, I refused to join but they convinced me to join the group when they told me group does not discriminate. Hesitant as I was I stood in a corner to watch one of their meetings. When a Community Resource Personal saw me, she took me by the hand and made sit in the circle with the other upper and lower caste women, I was afraid of my sitting along with all of them but I was surprised that none of them objected. Not only did I face no objection the women both upper caste and lower caste welcomed me with open hearts giving me great confidence.
Over time the fear and hesitation inside me was aborted and soon I started keeping accounts of group. Now I look after bank linkage in the group and deal with the bank officials. The discrimination has died, there are no upper or lower caste in our group, all are equal.
Now no one is hesitant to sit and eat with me. Often group meeting are conducted at my home. My family and I get equal treatment in the society at functions as do others who belong to the lower castes.
Now I have my own identity that is not a servant of my caste. Everyone in the village takes my advice, mainly related to bank and accounts and I try my best to help them. Today I don't have to remember that I belong to a lower caste, or worry if I am with people of a higher caste, and I cant help think that this would not have been possible without the help of our “Swayam Sahayata Samooh”. Discrimination is man made and man himself can end this evil if he should choose to.
Today Geeta is the president of her Self Help Group (SHG), the Cluster Level Association (CLA) at the village as well as the the President of the Block Level Association (BLA).