GUWAHATI, Nov 2 – Women who have lost their husbands in insurgency-related violence in the State are having a tough time making their ends meet. This is what a survey done on the social and psychological impact of insurgency on the womenfolk of Assam has found out.
The survey conducted by the Centre for Development and Peace Studies covered four districts – Kamrup, Tinsukia, Nalbari and Dima Hasao. All these districts have witnessed insurgent violence over the years and have been witness to numerous counter-insurgency operations by the security forces.
Only 22 per cent of the women heading the surveyed households are currently employed in a job. Another 30 per cent of the women are earning their living through some ventures of their own. Some of them earn through tailoring and sewing jobs, while a few rural women are involved in farming. Some of the women work as maids, while some women are running the shops that their husbands used to run before their deaths.
“However, the majority of the surveyed women (48 per cent) were unemployed. These women are now dependent on their in-laws, brothers, sisters or other relatives and well-wishers for financial support to run their households,” Rani Pathak Das, senior research associate, CDPS, said.
Of those having jobs, 11 per cent are working for the Central Government, while 65 per cent are working in the State Government departments. The rest of the employed women are working in the private sector.
The survey found the literacy level of women “not quite high” – something that hindered the women in their search for jobs.
The monthly income of the majority of the women (87 per cent) was found to be below Rs 10,000. Professional counselling was not received by 93 per cent of the surveyed women after they lost their family members in insurgency-related violence.
The livelihood and economic condition of such families have been most hard hit after the deaths of the breadwinners. In the majority of the families (80 per cent), the household income fell down drastically. In case of 32 per cent of the women, it became difficult managing two square meals a day also in the initial months after they came to head their households.
“The majority of the women (87 per cent) said that their neighbours had come forward to show their sympathy after the death of their family members in insurgency violence and 52 per cent of the women were also helped monetarily by their neighbours. The relatives also came forward for help, as mentioned by 81 per cent of the women. Thus, the majority of these women had the support of their relatives and neighbours during this tragic time of their lives,” Das said.
Some women (15 per cent), however, felt that the people tried to avoid them or their family after the death of their family members in insurgent violence.
The study also tried to assess the impact on education of the children of the surveyed women. It was found that in 27 per cent of the surveyed families, at least one child of the family had to discontinue his/her study, and out of these, children in 81 per cent of these families had given up their studies to start working for earning a livelihood.
The mental trauma faced by the children was also evident from the fact in case of 23 per cent of the families, the children were initially reluctant to go to school after the death of their father. Only after repetitive persuasion did they finally agree to go to school. The survey also found out that in 33 per cent of the families, the children had turned inattentive to their studies.
The majority of these surveyed women (78 per cent) lived in nuclear families and as such the death of their bread earning member has been a blow to them.
“Staying away from their relatives added an extra sense of insecurity to these women. However, one sense of satisfaction was that the majority of these women (72 per cent) lived in their own houses. These women expressed that this was a huge relief because they had a permanent shelter. The rest of the women lived in rented houses (21 per cent), some have gone back to their parents’ houses (five per cent), while a few are now living with their in-laws (two per cent),” Das said.
The study also assessed the educational qualifications of the women, who are now heading their respective households after the death of their bread-earning members. It was noticed that the illiteracy rate was high among these women with 23 per cent of the women bring illiterate; while 17 per cent read till the primary level, 12 per cent women read up to the middle school level and only 30 per cent studied till their matriculation.
“Thus, the majority of these women (82 per cent) have not studied past high school. Only seven per cent of the women have passed higher secondary and 11 per cent of the women have done their graduation. This low level of literacy has become a hurdle for these women to get proper jobs,” Das said.