Samantha B Marbaniang, who was born in Meghalaya has grown up in a society where women were able to live alone bringing up sometimes five children or more. Women would most probably not have had the same respect had they been faced with the same circumstances elsewhere in India.
Having a snack in the late summer warmth in Munich with an Anthropologist Nikolaus Gerold from Germany who is studying youth culture of the Khasi tribe, we discussed the simplified face which people on the outside see of a community and how this is contrasted with the complexity of a community once you delved deeper and live within it.
Samantha, a strong, independent working woman herself wears her confidence easily. I wonder how other women who have lived in different parts of the world other than Meghalaya have felt working side by side men in sometimes male dominated professions and if there is a difference to the kind of accepted respect that comes with growing up and living within a matrilineal society. We discuss how the status of women has had ramifications for men in Meghalaya, who have become like guardians to matrilineal line, but are often found in bars in packs, sometimes over-drinking till late.
In the next update I will telling you about Mayfereen who I will be meeting out in Meghalaya. Mayfereen is the Founder of http://www.grassrootshillong.org/who is a strong advocate, ensure people to be in a position to upgrade their traditional skills, crafts and know-how from their culture so that they can participate in the global economy whilst being able to sustain themselves.
These stories from significant Khasi women are beginning to weave the tapestry that will be documented through an online, interactive exhibition where children, teenagers and adults can explore these women, their initiatives and the arts and crafts of the region. By depicting these stories through an online exhibition, this will enable us to find a way not only to understand and preserve the arts and crafts of this particular tribe, but also students, both young and old will have possibility to understand how the unique social framework and matrilineal society that has influenced the culture and arts of this region, so that there can be wider discussions about the changing frameworks and structures of society at large.
We are living in times where gender roles and societal structures are transforming, but sometimes we find ourselves going two steps forward and two steps back if we only look to our own immediate surroundings for answers. Perhaps by looking and learning more about this particular corner of the world in North India where roles are unique and somewhat upside down to what the majority is used to, perhaps then, through education we have chance to transform and make gender roles, broader, more encompassing, freer more imaginative and equal instead of restricting, oppressive, stereotypical and hate-ridden.
By giving access and learning from these societies that are co-existing on our planet, we may have chance of moving beyond the constraints that bind us.