SEEMA DEVI : THE ICON OF VAISHALI DISTRICT Of NORTH INDIA.
Semma Devi is 25 year old and fifth wife of an old man. Being dark and short her parents who are uneducated and poor married her off to this old man. She was abused by people and often by her own relatives since a poor woman in India has little value other than to use her for work or marry and produce children for a man. She felt very sad, no dignity of her own, powerless and not able to get out of the triple effect of poverty, illiteracy and patriarchy. Feeling dejected and helpless of her pitiful situation, she suffered and there was no one to listen or offer her any help.
When she heard that our organization, Medical Mission Sisters (MMS) who are committed to health and healing through promotion of justice and empowerment of women and girls were conducting sewing classes she approached us. Sr. Smita Parmar and team were happy to welcome her along with other women and provided needed support.
She was happy to come daily for the classes more over to enjoy the company where she felt loved, accepted, valued as a human being. So even after finishing the course she continued to come to the center to share her life with us.
We recognised her great potential, determination and courage to do something in life. We appointed her as a part time staff in our project which requires field visit too. She learnt to ride bicycle and joined us in the field work. It was not common for a village woman to ride a bicycle which was meant for men and boys, while she broke the stereotype. As a result the women of the village pointed fingers at her and she was beaten up by her in-laws and neighbours and strictly warned not to go out of the house.
Not daunted she came to us the next day and we directed her to the Women’s Help Line and informed the District Majistrate and Superintend of Police. Infuriated by the developments, Seema Devi’s family, relatives and villagers gathered on 25th March at 11 PM and decided to throw her out of her home. The accusations against her included: riding a cycle, intercalating with other men and tarnishing the name of the family by working with the Didijis ( sisters) who are misleading “good women”.
Seema, boldly told the angry men and women that “ you can kill me but I will not stop working with the Didijis, they are helping many helpless women like me to earn a living”. She was clear, bold and fearless like Durga Devi, (Hindu Deity who was fierce against injustices) the villagers were perplexed and gradually dispersed without a word. A voiceless and weak woman for a quarter century, finally was able to rise up as a winner!
Next morning she came with her husband and said firmly ‘ Didiji I have come to work.’ There was a spark in her eyes and glow on her face. Seema and her whole village had resurrected from the dark tomb and born to new life. She was not formally educated, powerless but now she has the knowledge and wisdom to live her life. The District . Magistrate and the media have decided to make Seema Devi “the icon of Vaishali District”. Indeed she has made all of us proud. Women empowerment does not come by itself. It demands awareness, own up their dignity and courage to fight, truth, and daring to dream of a life bigger than self.
There are many girls and women like Seema Devi who are in need of knowing their worth, fight for their rights and bring changes to their lives as well as to the society. Medical Mission Sisters are in 18 countries reaching out to people like Seema Devi. You can help us reach out to these women with your financial support and encouragement and prayers.
Thank you Smita for sharing this story !