The exchange of ideas – culturally, socially, and politically - is an integral part of the GROW trip. On Day 6, we awakened to birds calling, trainees moving about in the rooms next door, their bangles clanging against one another, and the smell of smoky fire wafting from the downstairs kitchen to our window. A 7 AM yoga session was scheduled with Mabhusmita, head of the ASHA program and yoga master. We hopped across the courtyard and into the small room full of other ASHA trainees ready to calm our minds and stretch our bodies in the ancient art of yoga.
Feeling refreshed from such a peaceful exercise, our heads were clear as we dove into conversation with Prasanta, our translator and SOVA trainer, and Mabhusmita about the status of women’s rights in India, the United States, and Portugal. As a women’s rights advocate, Mabhusmita compiled a list of topics she was curious about: “Do women in the U.S. determine the sex of their baby during pregnancy? How does society perceive giving birth to a boy vs. a girl child? What is the status of women in terms of making important decisions for the family? Does the dowry exist in the U.S.? At night, can girls safely walk alone? Does domestic violence occur in the U.S.?”
Each of these questions were pointed toward aspects of Indian society. Through this conversation, we found that though progress is being made, the state of gender equality remains hanging in the balance. Female infanticide is still prevalent which is why it is illegal to determine the sex of one’s baby post-conception prenatally, domestic violence is an extremely large and normalized issue, and dowries still exist despite them being illegal in India. Prasanta and Mabhusmita vehemently conveyed their disapproval for these practices, and told us that things like the Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA) and Patient Care Assistant (PCA) Program served a dual purpose in combatting both health inequities and gender issues.
While gathering this information, we exchanged our own experiences of these topics in the United States, and together came to the conclusion that these issues exist everywhere on a global scale, if only to a greater or less extent. The conversation was lively and full of personal experience and earnest questions. We felt so empowered by the discourse on this subject, and hopeful that there were such good-hearted and driven individuals taking the charge to create change in India, qualities we hope to bring back to the U.S.