Rebecca Vest: I am attending Central Connecticut State University with a double major in Sociology and Anthropology. I’ve been very interested in culture since I began to travel at a young age. India especially was fascinating to me since I attended an Indian wedding, and learned more about its culture through a course on Global India/ I received my Associates Degree in counseling at Manchester Community College which led me to a better understanding of cultural relativism, and human social interaction. humans. Anthropology has brought me closer to actual human realities. Reading ethnographies has especially been influential to my understanding of diverse human lives. I am a very spiritual person, and this has grown over time. I’m free-spirited and try to live daily with positivity in my mind, body, and spirit. I feel especially vibrant when immersed in my fears, and learn and grow by de-constructing and breaking down the wall of fear to find an inner strength. I was originally fearful of India; the long trip to get there, the length of time away, and the completely new environment. But I have already grown to an extent that I’ve  never felt possible on one trip from which I have learned empowerment, vitality, yearning, will, simplicity, and friendship.

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Winding down the streets of Trivandrum, stuffed in the back of a taxi, my journey began without a slight realization of how much of an imprint this trip would leave on me.  Girijamohan let us enter her home, even though she didn’t know we would arrive so early. Still, she immediately tried to make us feel welcome. She had come from a small village originally where women banded together against the oppression inflicted by men. Her husband whose household she resides in, is in the city, moving here when they had married at 23. Her neighborhood developed a network of women, an idea deriving from her experience in her rural neighborhood. The ladies’ group started as a response to marital disparities and general networking in their community. Turning her network and vision into what was to be a community, self-government within the village.

Each woman now earns money in their organization, the Kudumbashree by making specific goods. They  divide the earnings into paying the loans taken out for their organization and then split the rest evenly amongst the women. Women described the network as supporting for widows, getting them out of the house, and for abuse intervention. There are strong laws against domestic violence, unfortunately, there has been little or no resourcefor women to support themselves enabling them to get out of this moral predicament.

Political decentralization has also allowed women to be empowered and is extremely crucial for their survival. Political decentralization in Kerala has roots going back to 1957 when an Administrative Reforms Committee (ARC) was set up for Kerala state. The head of that reforms committee was first Chief Minister. The ARC recommended decentralization of power at various levels and methods for democratization of the organs of government at various levels. The system of governance of panchayats, recommended by the ARC, was essentially a two-tier system with directly elected village panchayats at village level and district councils at the district level. The Panchayat Act of 1960 recommended the division of local bodies into Panchayat Department and Municipal Department for easy administration. In 1962, Panchayat department was structured under the guidance of Shri.R Kesavan Nair (Kerala.org).”    But the importance of decentralization is that it gives local people voices at all political levels of the state.

It’s hard to describe the feeling of being with all of the women. The experience left me in awe. A community of women laughing, smiling, fighting, cooking, and as we were leaving often disagreements but with end of laughter.

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