Close to one million Indian women of low socioeconomic status are said ready to boycott the upcoming Oct.13 assembly elections in the Maharashtra state. *Note the Maharashtra region is, according to recent GDP stats, the richest in India. Many of them are from the devadasi class-‘married’ to a god or deity-and have fallen victim to a now-diminishing traditional Hindu custom. Their low level of education and savings are major liabilities in their increasingly modern, capital-based society.
The issue such news raises about women’s status in society brings me to my final post (for now) on the topic of ethical travel. Eco-tourism is more successful than ever, while region-specific tips are increasingly available on-line and in travel books. But for the conscientious traveler, it’s still paramount-on top of using common sense-to investigate a little bit further.
For example, Nepal is deemed one of the worst countries for treatment of women in the world. Early marriage (at an average age of 16) and childbirth is commonplace. Girls who aren’t married off may be sold to traffickers before they reach their teens. The country is also the ‘deadliest place in the world to give birth outside Afghanistan and a clutch of countries in sub-Saharan Africa,’ according to a recent report by the International Federation of the Red Cross.
However, shops in Nepal sell handicrafts made by low-income women. Most of these shops are run by non-profit development organizations and the money goes to the craftspeople in a fair wage-form — www.mahaguthi.org: ‘Craft with a Conscience’ and www.acp.org.jp: Association of Craft Producers, are a couple such groups. ACP works with a network of 1,200 artisans from 15 districts of Nepal, of which 90% are women. The organization says it is: ‘Committed to its social welfare programs, which provide strong benefits to the artisans, such as a savings program, school scholarships focusing on girls’ education.’