Linked with our presentation of ICDA.
THE WOES OF MUSLIM SINGLE PARENTS IN BHADRAK IN ORISSA UNDER INDIA
(Survey Report of ICDA –an Organization Committed for the Betterment of Marginalized Women & Children).
The Indian census defines a head of the household as basically a person on whom falls the chief responsibility for the economic maintance of the family.
Households become female headed for variety of reasons. Female headedness can be temporary or permanent and the implications for the family are quite different in each case. While some households become female headed due to migration, the reason for a households becoming permanently female headed is largely death, desertion, divorce or separation of the male member of household.
There is an increasing number of single parent families and female households in Bhadrak. Women who may be widows, divorced, separated, deserted or unmarried mothers, generally head the single parent families. Female heads of households, who are not single parents, may have a migrant husband or he may not be contributing his income to the family. These women have the main responsibility thrust upon them, for which they have neither training nor experience. When they have young children to look after, they are further marginalized and fully exploited in the unorganized sector. These families are generally the poorest of the poor.
The implications of the female headedness for a household are serious, because the survival of the family depends on the women’s earning. Female-headed households are more prone to poverty, given their lower or nil control over productive resources and their greater dependency on wage income, their higher rate of in voluntary unemployment and lower level of education and literacy of the household heads.
If this is the generalized picture of female-headed households, the situation in which a female of Muslim community finds herself is more critical and her experience is truly bitter. Bhadrak which is highly dominated by economically low class Muslim family has led many to think on the plight of Muslim community in general and its women in particular. But, it is highly agonizing that no steps has been taken untill now to ameliorate the status of down-trodden women.
With a view to developing of comprehensive plan of action for female-headed household of low-income Muslim community, we carried out a micro study on Divorced, Separated& Deserted Muslim women of Bhadrak city under Orissa.
Statistically speaking, the sample delineates 50% of our universe are Deserted, 40% Divorced& the rest 10% are Separated. In most of the cases polygamy & the practice of giving “Talaq” in the low-income group Muslims are accountable for above maladies. Below are mentioned some of the fundamental problems of Muslim single parents.
Economically all the above categories of women belong to low income group family, their parents are either dead or has become feeble and thus become quite incapable to maintain their daughters. Secondly, in very many cases their daughters look after the parents on the otherhand. In no case brothers are taking care of their sisters. Before being separated, deserted or divorced, these women were kept under the perpetual care of their male members. But once they left or expelled from their husband’s home, the entire responsibility of marinating themselves and their children is thrust upon them. As they are untrained and illiterate they find it impossible to earn for a dignified living. As a result acute poverty and its attendant problems have worsened their living standards and shaken their faith in rights given to the citizen of India by our constitution. To make the matter worst, the practice of “purdah”(putting on veil) has further reduced them into economically deplorable situation. Their monthly income under no circumstances goes beyond Rs.500/-. The study estimates 35% of these women are bidi makers whose monthly income ranges between Rs.200/-to Rs.250/-. 5% are engaged in paper envelope making with an monthly earning of Rs300/-.The envelop makers income goes down drastically during rainy seasons as because they fail to get their wet envelop dries up in time. 50% of them are domestic help or maidservants. Remaining 10% are beggars having no fixed income. To generalize the picture, one may say that 90% of these women are doing home-based work. Another point needs mention here that these women are reluctant to go away from their house due to purdah system prevalent in the area. The outcome of their restrictive movement is their substantially low bargaining power on their labour.
Certain women tell us that their hard labor in their masters home does not bring favor for themselves. They are exploited thoroughly and feel as if they are condemned to live such life.85% of these women have had no residence of their own. They are forced to share the residence of their parents or uncle. As all of them belong to very low economic class, one can well imagine the condition in which they might be living in. Their dwelling places are very dark and swampy. During rainy season the entire floor gets swamped due to their incapacity to thatch to roof of the room.
It is an axiomatic fact that he children of such women are also equally vulnerable in the society. They are not only denied of basic rights like right to education, health, food etc. ,but also the treatment meted out of these innocent children by their neighbor is terribly shocking. They are shamelessly employed as laborer with their mothers. These children are mentally and physically exploited. Some of them are even forced to work in a hazardous condition in return of insignificant wages. They do not get adequate food and cloth and what to speak of education. Truely no effort is ever made to provide them opportunities to grow like a normal child.
The survey reveals that only 1% of our target group had the chance to attend the schools and it is equally shocking to learn that none of them could become able to complete their primary education. The children like their mothers are also equally unfortunate in respect of education. Both Govt. and private educational centers in the area have miserable failed to attract these unfortunate beings.
Insufficient intake of food, inhospitable living condition, hazardous and long period of work, uncared nature of attending minor diseases, unhygienic living condition have made them to suffer from many diseases. It is observed that the single Muslim women of Bhadrak and their dependant members health are truly deplorable. They have been suffering from such chronic diseases as Fileria, Bronchitis, and T.B. the study estimates 35% of the total universe is having average health, 40% below average and 25% are morbid. As regards their children, 40% of girl child has average health, 50% below average and 10% of them are morbid. 44% of boys health is average, 45% below average and 11% are morbid.
To conclude we may submit here that these single parents of Muslim Community have been silently bearing with affliction more due to socially ascribed role model for them in a male dominated conservative society. Unfortunately their problems have been least heard of as because everybody has accepted these phenomena as God given. Surprisingly, the enlightened have considered these as apolitical, non-social & uneconomic and has little or no relevance with their enlightened thinking.
Therefore, we are appealing all those who have the wish to serve the mankind. ICDA, our Organization is planning for the holistic development of Muslim single parents in Bhadrak. The plan intends to cover construction of home, training for income generation, health services and education. Your responses are highly solicited.