Traditionally, families from Sushma’s indigenous Tharu community are headed by men who set rules. But this is now changing, women now have the freedom to pursue work outside their homes and their opinion is taken into consideration during decision-making.
This has helped Sushma in her activism to help empower the women of her community. She is a municipality-level secretary of the Mukta Kamaiya Advocacy Group in Badhaiyatal. She is also a member of a local women’s agro cooperative and a savings and loans committee.
Sushma earns Rs15,000 a month, which is just about enough to pay for food and basics. She still helps her parents and sister-in-law by tending their fields, her brother is a daily wage worker but the youngest sister is physically handicapped.
Most of Sushma’s friends are now married, and have their own families. But she has dedicated her life to supporting her parents and siblings, and helping fellow Tharu women to rise above their station in life.
After the bonded labour system was abolished, the government issued identity cards for freed kamlari so they could better access food, shelter, healthcare, education, and other essential services. But Sushma’s ID card has not been of much help.
Sushma has also learnt the hard way that no one is going to help people like her, she is determined to work hard, learn new skills, and be financially independent.
Says Sushma: “I have no regrets, I just wish the state hadn’t abandoned us once after we were rescued. They don’t care if we live or die or how we survive. And that has actually made us more resilient.”
Read also: Nothing to lose but their chains, Sewa Bhattarai