On our visit to Dema, near Bodhgaya, we have met the group of around twenty women studying Non-Formal Education (NFE). These women have never gown to school and they are now learning to read and write. They read the local newspaper daily and discuss it together. We had an interesting exchange with them.
(SHF is Shining Hope foundation and NFE is Non-Formal Education)
SHF: Where do you think we come from?
NFE: You’re foreigners
SHF: We’re from France – Do you know France?
NFE: Yes (about half of them)
SHF: What is the meaning of the red dots on your forehead, red lining in your hair, bangles on your wrists, nose ring, and tattoos on your forearms?
NFE: Red dot, red lining, and bangles are for married women only. The nose ring is from a celebration when we were young, it’s symbolizes us growing up The tattoo is from a celebration when we were kids our parents did it to us in order to never forget them, even after they die.
SHF: How many kids do you have?
NFE: Most of them had 2, 3 and few had 4 kids.
SHF: Why don’t you have more?
NFE: The life is very hard, and we do not want to offer that to our kids.
SHF: What is the most difficult part of your life?
NFE: Alcoholic and violent husbands.
SHF: What is the best part of your life?
NFE: Studying is giving us a new chance in life. It has empowered us as well.
SHF : Do you have a question for us ?
NFE : What do you eat ?
SHF: We are vegan, so we do not eat anything coming from the animals such as meat, fish, eggs, milk, and honey.
SHF: Compassion for animals.
NFE: We also know a group of Hindus who do not consume meat, and fish, and eggs, but why not milk?
SHF: Because milk is for the calf. We find it as illogical as giving our milk to cows. And you why do you eat meat? Also cows?
NFE: Because we work a lot in the field and the doctors advise us to eat meat to be stronger. We don’t eat cow meat, but we sell it to the butcher.
Thanks to all these women for their honesty and their smile.
Written by Marie Saint-Arnoult, Co-founder of Shining Hope Foundation.