Women's work?

Pushpa Achanta
Posted August 19, 2010 from India
Venkatamma predicting the future...
Venkatamma predicting the future...
Venkatamma predicting the future... (1/2)

A shoemaker. A fortune teller. Even in present day India, one rarely associates these professions with women irrespective of economic status. And those women who do these jobs are barely visible.

However, in October 2009, I was pleasantly surprised to find women engaged in both these activities. I spotted them during Nagara Chitra, a photo exploration of Shivaji Nagar with Maraa (http://maraa.in), a community media collective. Located in the heart of Bangalore, India, this place is a busy old hub of trade, worship and history.

Puttalaimma, aged over forty, stitches and mends footwear for a living. Like many other women, she did only household chores and some agricultural labour in Tamil Nadu, a neighbour state. However, she realized that her cobbler husband needed help. Learning by observing him, she started doing this seemingly tough work herself. Her husband's encouragement helped her continue despite opposition from other men. "It is just a another job", she said with a warm smile, happy that I cared to talk and take her picture.

Sixty year old Venkatamma, a great grandmother, is perhaps the last in her family where women have been astrologers traditionally. Hailing from Teni in Madurai district also in Tamil Nadu, she made Bangalore her home after getting married at sixteen. Her daughters, nieces, sisters and other women of the younger generation among her relatives, have opted to study and pursue other careers. Unlike a few other women vendors on the streets, Venkatamma did not mind that I clicked her photo while she went about her business. And she readily answered my questions while appreciating my 'modern' outlook. That was when I remarked that I found her very progressive.

A glimpse of these inspiring women at work...

Comments 3

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Aug 19, 2010
Aug 19, 2010

My dear Pushpa, I smile as I read, I have seen poverty and know what it is like to want to breakthrough, I was in Bangalore in May this year and I tour some areas too, I lived in Dooda Gubbi and saw what women are passing through, though this is how it is all over the world. The worst part of the news is that even when they work that odd or not odd jobs, they do not have control over what they earn, all we have is access which may be denied sometimes and do you know that there is an imbibed or inculcated feelings that makes women from the developing world believe that even what they earn is not rightly theirs! It is either for their husband, children or a father figure.

We will be free when we actually want o be free, because these days women are doing whatever they can to be totally free from teh shackles of poverty. Love you Pushpa...and your pics..

Mary Patindol
Sep 11, 2010
Sep 11, 2010

Thank you for sharing, Pushpa and Olutosin!

Yes, when women take on work, they do not really think about whether it's "men's" or "women's". As long as it gets food on the table and helps care for their loved ones, they will do it. Although I don't believe it's genetically ingrained but more a product of social conditioning, still it's time for a paradigm shift to consider the work that woman do as highly valuable, and rightly valued as such.

In Riane Eisler's "The Real Wealth of Nations: Creating A Caring Economics" (Berrett-Koehler, 2007), she proposes broadening the economic map from the traditional market, government and illegal sectors as the only "economies" considered, to include the household, community and natural environment sectors (where there is a lot of caring work done but unpaid) as economies in their own right too, even more significantly contributing to the productive capacity of a nation.

Aug 19, 2010
Aug 19, 2010

Pushpa, by reading your post i am pleased that the woman's place is no longer in the kitchen and bedroom! We're slowly but surely seeing the good deeds of empowerment through different mediums. Let us encourage and celebrate such women more and more.