300 rural women in Uttarakhand spoilt for choice with 'Khushi Ka Ek Din'

A woman getting her eybrows threaded at the event.
Many got their eyebrows threaded for the very first time, many had their first make-up, many tasted momos for the first time, while several had their first multiplex-like experience — it was a women’s day out on February 15 in the remote, mountainous village of Seem in Uttarakhand where life is anything, but exciting.

Around 300 women from 10 villages had their “Khushi Ka Ek Din” — they pampered themselves, pla­yed games, laughed, watched films and sang their hearts out together– all thanks to Udhyam, a unique initiative to help entrepreneurs in Kumaon hills, Metores Family Trust and Happy Children’s Library.

Usually, these women start their monotonous days with lighting chulhas soon after getting up in the morning and pass it looking after their family — cooking, washing and tending to animals, if the household owns any. Creases line their faces well before age dictates them.

Only respite these womenfolk in the hills get when they trudge up the long hilly terrain to pick cooking wood from forest and down carrying the back-breaking load of logs. Yet, they look forward to this as it is their only me-time, when they can share their stories with other women and be with nature, away from the daily drudgery of their lives.

It is with this idea of offering the local women a day’s respite from the usual drudgery that the event was organised last month.

Although this effort was aimed at just offering a break to the womenfolk, Udhyam was also keen to spread its wider message: Hill women can too become entrepreneurs, at times more successfully than men, in a society that is aggressively male-dominated. The programme already has 18, out of a total of 108 women entrepreneurs, who have broken the traditional mould.

There were many others firsts too at the event. The main attraction was a Picture Time digiplex (theatre at their doorstep) showing Irfan Khan’s bindi blind-folded, knocking down pins and many others they had only seen their husbands or children play. 

A resident of Seem village, 45-year-old Janaki Devi, was overjoyed to find herself unmatched hitting pyramids of tumblers — thanks to her years of practice of warding off monkeys from her fields. 

One of the most popular draws was a stand-up by Pawan Pahadi. Then there was a beauty makeover corner where many women were seen not just getting their eyebrows threaded or make-up done, but their hair styled as well.

Apart from Bollywood, Kumaoni karaoke allowed them to voice their innermost desires, albeit in tune!

Besides, there were stalls offering diverse variety of food like chowmein — the local favourite — and how can one forget to give women an opportunity to shop — from stalls run and managed by Udhyam women entrepreneurs. This gave the local women a chance to interact with the entrepreneurs as well. 

Founder of the project, Pankaj Wadhwa, also one of the sponsors of the event, hopes that this exposure could end up being an “invaluable seed” sown in many other minds.

The event also sought to break convention in the area, so there was a special lucky draw with prizes for saas-bahus, if they came together. “The idea was to allow the bahu to enjoy the company of the saas and go home together,” explains Wadhwa. 

The impact was visible within days when a woman got her 24-year-old daughter-in-law enrolled for a computer course at the Happy Children’s library in Seem.

Meanwhile, the women had requested the menfolk to stay home for that “ek din (one day)” to take care of the children and animals, again a first in the region.

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