Having a different set of gender shouldn’t give anyone the right to keep you down from flying high and approaching your dreams, in the way you want. She is an inspiration to many people of the village and it will not be wrong if we say that the small village of Haryana has witnessed many positive changes after she became the Sarpanch of Chappar.
Neelam, the first woman sarpanch of the village. She is on a mission to bring back the freedom to women of her village. Everyone from children to an old person in the village respects everyone respected by everyone in the village. At the age of 31, the young feisty lady sarpanch, of the panchayat in Chappar village in Jind district of Haryana has chosen the path to serve her village, because she believes that to bring positive changes, one has to walk on the path and guide the one who is in disorientation.
Ghoonghat (veil) is a symbol of male dominance, and female subservience, more so in the Jat-dominated Haryana. She waged a fight against the ‘Ghoonghat'(the veil), that suffocated her. Wearing Ghoonghat is an age-old custom for the woman which is still followed in many parts of rural India.
Initially, she In-laws did not approve of this practice. Many in the village frowned and complained against her doing so. But she didn’t back out, and continue on her way. She now not only mingles with male members of her in-laws’ family, village elders, and officers but also calls her husband Sohan Lal by his first name.
“After marriage, I was asked to keep a veil… it used to suffocate me… I couldn’t even speak in front of my own family members… but no one understood,” says Neelam.
All this couldn’t be possible without the support of his husband. He said, “People would say your wife holds meetings and is seen without Ghoonghat. You should keep her in control. But after so many changes, now I realize the importance of doing so in the society. As sarpanch, she has done a lot for the village.
To continue this practice, she had also launched a campaign to spread awareness about women’s rights and such as dowry and female foeticide and became the voice of women in the village.
There were villagers still did not accept this, are continuing to follow Ghoonghat as their ritual. But on the other hand, there were women’s like Jyoti, who stand out and support Neelam to make changes in the villages. She told that “Earlier, we didn’t have a voice, even when I disagreed with some decisions of the house, I was supposed to just stay put behind the Ghoonghat. I now participate and voice my opinion”.
She never complained about anything, although her job is difficult. She along with the household work also manages the affairs in the village. She is very dedicated towards her work, she had launched many campaigns which make realize the power of the community and give women equal participation in the society. From any awareness programme to employment opportunities, everything good is on her agenda. She wants to make women feel safe, secure and responsible in the world which is filled with prejudices and obstructions.
She has dreamt a dream for her village. Her vision is to make it cleaner, efficient and a lot friendlier to the senior citizens who have to run around for claiming their rights. Now, women in her village are no longer forced to wear Ghoonghat (veil) and they are free to wear whatever comforts them. Not only that, People even distribute sweets when a baby girl is born in their family and make sure she attends school.
With the passage of time, people started taking it normally and she decided to make her village a happy village. The Sarpanch happily shared in an interview that now the women in her villages are more confident and aware of their social rights and actively participate in the social developmental works.
IMAGE SOURCE: https://www.bbc.com/hindi/india/2016/08/160822_ghoonghat_spk