Unraveling the true meaning behind true self-reliance
The nation shall celebrate the 72nd Independence day today. We shall pay tribute to the sacrifices of our jawaans and the freedom fighters. We shall commemorate the political figures of those times, who charted out the journey for the future of the country. We will probably discuss political matters of the formation of the new state and the amendments in the constitution, we will contemplate how far we have come in these seven decades, and where we hope to move forward. In these discussions about independence, and the way forward with larger political debates, we need to also have a discussion on how far we’ve moved ahead as individuals, in family structures, in gender — based biases, and the significance that the idea of ‘independence’ has in our routine lives.
Historically, women have been privy to oppressive practices, and bound in patriarchal ideas, often imposed by several centuries of conditioning. This has led to a system where the it becomes the woman’s ‘duty’ to take on all the domestic responsibility, child-rearing responsibilities along with physical and emotional labor for the husband’s family. Between all her responsibilities, often the idea of the ‘self’, and what her own identity is, is lost. And since, most women take care of the home, and aren’t the primary breadwinners for the family, the power game is always on the side of the patriarch. Women have very low agency over their emotional, economic and social freedom.
While tending to her Mother-in-law in severe sickness, Mrs. Rita Bhagat was surrounded by women carers of varied social strata, and she observed this situation in their lives. She saw how women were mistreated often, although they were dutiful wives, mothers, sisters and daughters. In the many expectations of who these women had to be, there was a loss of ‘self-awareness’ and ‘self-confidence’, due to which women ended up being mistreated and putting up with disrespectful behavior.
Questioning a solution to this over the years, the idea of Happy Faces emerged, to build a collective platform where women could grow, discover their own identities, build confidence within a support system of a community.
Independence here is to bring an idea of self-reliance among women, so that their voices became stronger, and life and breathing became happier. Starting with a small network of women, and growing to a community of more than 500 women, impacting as many families, and the larger society, we’re building a collective society where everyone has equal agency.
Starting with simple traditional snacks, to textile based skills and products, women learned re-articulated the skills they already knew and built on newer ones. These products were then placed with large corporations, hotel chains, and lifestyle spaces — that accepted these outcomes, building even more confidence, and sense of pride among the women.
With more than two years of the initiative, we’re a young foundation. The women in the collective have grown to become confident, bold, independent, self-reliant women who have learned to balance between home and life beyond home and family.
A thought to leave you behind with, Mrs. Gita Rawal’s, a macrame maker, has a beautiful thought to leave you with, an articulation of what independence means to her, and to the society,
“Independence is in agreeing to disagree, in having the space to have your own opinion and thought, while being with everyone. Independence needs to thrive in togetherness, not in mere individualism. If individually we can have independent mindsets, and ideas towards life, together, we can grow.”