On Tuesday, we had the special opportunity of traveling to Ahmednagar to attend what we originally were told was a “meeting” with the Tribal Minister of Health for the State of Maharastra. However, we were greeted by hoards of women in sarees under a large grounded tent. We were quickly ushered into the government building, up the stairs and into a conference room where we met Supriya Sule, a congresswoman for the Nationalist Congress Party. She is a big supporter of women’s rights and empowerment, and we shortly learned that the event was actually a rally of over 5,000 women waiting to hear her and other members of the political party speak. After meeting and speaking with Supriya shortly, we headed to the tent to observe the ceremony. Unfortunately, all of it was in Marathi so it was difficult to follow along. Different women put on skits and shared their stories with poems and speeches and the women in the audience were very passionate and vocal with their approval of the program. Topics discussed included the importance of education, female foeticide, and the recent sexual violence throughout India.
About two hours later, we exited the tent to head back to CRHP when we were swarmed by many news crews who wanted to interview us. We were very confused because we didn’t quite understand why they would be treating us like celebrities. Many Indian people were trying to talk to us as we walked through the crowd, and many took pictures with their camera phones. We later learned that our presence was greatly appreciated because in a way, we represent the rights that these women are fighting for and while it seemed strange at the time, we were guests of honor for that reason. The Minister of Tribal Health’s personal assistant found us and took special care to bring us back to the conference room where more Indian staff and visitors gathered to take pictures with us and to wrap our heads in hot pink turbans to represent their appreciation for our attendance at the event. Thinking the day was over, we began to head back to the car but instead were thrown a curveball when we were all led on stage in front of thousands of Indian women to sit behind Supriya as she gave her long awaited speech. All in all, it was a great experience and one that none of us will forget.
On the way home, we stopped for a long awaited lunch at an Indian hotel where we were served traditional foods that were spicier than what we are used to at CRHP but extremely delicious! After a long bus ride home, we caught the very end of a lesson on holistic/natural remedies by Shobha and went to bed exhausted.