Is My Home Attendant Empowered?

With Durga Puja around the corner, everyone is writing and publishing stuff regarding women’s power, their strength, and so many other aspects of it. I also thought of writing something but then I questioned myself. What is women’s empowerment? Do we know the real definition of empowerment?

And as I was sipping my cup of evening tea wandering in these thoughts, questioning my inner self, Mina came up to me. She asked, “Didi do you need anything else?” I gazed at her blankly and she went slipped away silently.

Mina, a 19-year-old girl, is working as an attendant in my house. She comes from an Ayah Centre near my locality and looks after my father-in-law after his illness. I asked myself, “Is Mina empowered?” My first instinct was “YES”. Of course, she is. She is working and independent. But then I heard my mother-in-law shouting at her from the kitchen and asked her to leave the job. I thought that she must have done something wrong again.

I have seen her doing many silly mistakes lately. When she came 2 months back from the ayah center, she was managing everything so well. However suddenly, her performance dropped. Most of the time, she is either lost in her thoughts or is working with a depressed face.

I have asked her a couple of times if she is okay. Nevertheless, she always smiles and nodes me off. While I was trying to look at this situation from a different perspective today, I realized there is something more to the story than just silly mistakes and her blank face.

She comes from the Bankura district and stays in a hostel provided by the agency. Her father left her mother with 3 children 5 years ago for another lady. She was 14 then and decided to go out of the house to earn bread for her family. Her mother is not mentally well and thus she cannot share the burden.

I knew of this before we hired her. She told us about her background and the agency confirmed it. So, I decided to confront her. I called her into my room, closed the door, and made her sit. Then I asked her about what is wrong with her and if her family is okay.

My question broke her and she started to cry and told me that she will rectify her faults. After consoling her for a few minutes, she told me the story. She informed me that her father had come to meet her mother last week, and had bitten her badly. He even took away all the savings from her mother and left nothing for the family to survive upon. Mina wanted to meet her mother once but her agency is not allowing her any leave. I cannot even imagine the pain she must be going through.

Her grief and restlessness were genuine. And her question shook me from inside. “Didi, do you respect me? Will anyone ever respect me for the kind of Job I do?” “I know this job is not respectful but I have to earn my bread and have a family to support.”

I consoled her and promised to talk to the agency about her leave. But her questions were so deep. The irony of society or rather us, we still want them, without love, without respect.

I came back to my thoughts. Is this empowerment? Is Mina empowered?

What are your thoughts? You can comment on my blog and let me know.

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