The fortitude of the women in Manipur | Milaap

The fortitude of the women in Manipur

When we hear the word business, the image that pops up in our minds are people on phones, very busy with their work, counting money and what not. The women that I have met while on field have taken the loan mostly for their own selves. Now these women and their fearlessness and resilience are undeniable. The women take care of their families and they also earn livelihoods doing different jobs. Most of them are street vendors while some of them sell items from their own homes. The pride and courage that these women have in their work are amazing. At the end of each interview, I ask them if there was or is something in their life that they want to do for their own selves, apart from what they are currently doing. They almost always reply that the work that they are doing is their dreams. If there were any dreams that they have, it was to invest in their work/ business and make it flourish. The women and the air of independence that they have for themselves is very inspiring. They do not depend on their husbands while still taking care of the family.

Life is pretty hard for some of these women but that has not stopped them but they have instead risen from it. They are not able to give their children to the extent of support that they want but these women have made sure that their children get proper education and can have a better life.

Like for example, the lady Shantibala sells vegetables on the street and she supports her family through that. Her son is interested in sports so she hopes that he can continue in it. He had recently traveled to Kerala for a canoeing/ Kayaking competition. She knows that she might not be able to afford all the expenses that her son might need to have a career in sports. But she tells me while assuring herself as well, that she will do all that she can afford to so that her son can have a successful life in sports. Her second child is in a boarding, so she can study without the distractions at home.
While these women that I have met stay in Imphal and sell their wares, some of them travel a minimum of 3 hours daily to come to the city to sell their vegetables. The women are mostly from the Schedules Tribes. These women have it even harder as they have to forage for the vegetables in the forest most of the times. They come from the far off mountains and the roads they usually travel on are very bad. They travel on buses or Tata wingers carrying all their items. Since the types of items they sell are very different from the women who stay in the city, they have a good amount of customers.

But wherever these women may be from and whatever different things they may be selling, it cannot be denied that these women are independent and strong and they can hold their own. But of course, the omnipresent patriarchy is always there. However, with the limited traveling that I have done in Delhi and Mumbai in my life, these women really do stand out from the rest, at least for me.