I was in one of the villages of Ajmer district of Rajasthan taking a photography workshop for girls belonging to the villages there. I, along with the participating girls, visited the women (in the photos) when they were on a break from their work in the outskirts of their village. We found them singing and laughing, carefree in the safety of this space. It struck me that when I had seen some of these women earlier at their houses, I had found them observing ‘purdah’ or with their faces hidden beneath their ghoonghats in the presence of men and other elders.
It made me think of how they explored their happiness in their own space. I wondered about how women would laugh the loudest within the safe spaces that blossomed within these sisterhood bonds. Meanwhile, it would be a rare sight to witness women sitting on the same level, let alone laughing, with men. Why is it that freedom of expression continue to be difficult for women in our society? What if men and women, young and old, laughed together? Will it be a step in the direction towards bridging the gender gap? Won’t it also give men the opportunity to express and not repress their feelings as well?
How do we pave the way for gender equality? There are many social organisations and activists who are working hard to make this happen. In Ajmer, I saw Mahila Jan Adhikar Samiti working on ground to ensure awareness and sensitisation. The laughter of these women, that erupt beautifully mostly when there’s no man around, is an evidence of how important the presence of such organisations and initiatives are.
Rohit Jain is an Independent Social Documentary Photographer based in India. He is two times grantee of the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. He has covered tribal issues, displacement, forced migration, women health, public health, education, early marriage and livelihood. He has worked independently with World Bank, Vitamin Angels, Evidence Action, Malaria No More, Girl Up India, Haq – Center for Child Rights and many more. His works have been published by various media outlets. He visits Mass Communication colleges as an enrichment instructor to share his experience of Documentary Photography with students. Previously he has worked with the Indian English daily Hindustan Times.
All photos as provided by the author, Rohit Jain.