News Update


Indian homes are headed by women while males migrate

Usha Devi, seated in her modest home in Bihar, one of India’s poorest regions, remarked, “Everyone now knows me by my name.”

“Identity is not a small thing,” the 38-year-old insisted. “Previously, only men were recognized by their names; today, women are as well.”

At the age of 15, Usha Devi was forced to leave school and get married. She had no control over anything in her life and was forced into multiple pregnancies in order to fulfill the family’s wish for a son.

The mother of three daughters and a son stepped up to assume control of the home and their children’s life after her husband was forced to go in pursuit of employment. She relocated to a different house in the same community after leaving her in-laws’ residence. She now has a job, makes all family choices, and is regarded as the leader of her home.


According to the United Nations, women-headed families do not have a set definition, but they are frequently characterized as being either devoid of adult men or in which they do not make financial contributions.

According to economists and demographers, the term “head of the household” refers to a person who is financially independent and has the power to make decisions for the family. Married women are treated as the head of the household when their husbands move away and are gone for six months or more. Frequently, these are self-declared.

It’s a common tale in Indian villages and small towns, where men’s relocation due to economic hardship creates opportunities for women.

Children of Usha in front of their house IMAGE SOURCE,PREM BOOMINATHAN
Usha Devi’s husband quotes her as saying that her mother has given their children a chance for a better future.
This opportunity, according to sociologist and demographer Professor Sonalde Desai, depends on the wife’s capacity to leave the house where her husband was raised, where she would risk being reliant on other male family members like her father-in-law and brothers-in-law.

According to Prof. Desai, when a woman is able to start her own family on her own, “we see a real change in her ability to make decisions, her likelihood of taking care of some financial obligations, even managing and running the farm.”

According to data from the National Family Health Survey, the percentage of homes with a woman as the head has nearly doubled over the last three decades.

Internal migration, which has exhibited a rising tendency, is a significant factor in this alteration of the patriarchal family structure.

450 million migrants within India were counted in the country’s 2011 census. This was a 45% increase over the previous ten years, which is significantly more than the same period’s population growth rate of 18%.

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Prof. Desai believes that this trend will continue to grow over the next few years as a result of the poverty that Covid-19 has caused and the declining work chances.

Usha Devi, a leader among the women in her village, has grown more independent and self-assured.

She recruits women into a government program that offers low-interest loans to underprivileged women as part of her duties as the leader of a self-help organization.

The group meets once a week to discuss finances, develop a modest corpus by collecting 10 rupee ($0.12; £0.09) every contribution, frequently go to the bank to deposit it and request loans, and make financial decisions including lending small amounts of money from the corpus for emergencies.

In attendance at a meeting were Usha Devi and her crew.
Usha Devi started leading a self-help group in her community in 2016 (caption for image).
There was laughing and disagreement in equal measure at a meeting I attended. the camaraderie of an unofficial support system, separate from their families and menfolk.

“Now that we all know one another’s names. I’ve learned to write my name and handle financial transactions with the assistance of the more educated members, adds Munni Devi.

One of the more educated group members is Shobha Devi. She also got married young, but she was able to finish school later, and she frequently steps in for Usha.

She explains, “The money my husband sends is frequently insufficient, so we support each other through thick and thin.”

“Since I’ve learned how to manage my money, I also have more control over how much money I spend now.”

Shobha Devi is a member of a tribe of women whose education levels surpass those of their husbands.

The India Human Development Survey found that just 5% of married couples in the 1980s had wives who had higher levels of education than their husbands. For those born between the 2000s and 2010, this increased to 20%.

“If we understand headship [head of family] not simply as who is the biggest earner but also as someone who is capable of making decisions, I suspect increasing power may be moving towards these more educated women,” Prof. Desai says.

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Usha Devi made an investment in her education and earned a college degree when she started making money 11 years ago. She started working for a non-governmental organization in 2012, going door to door to gather health information on moms and newborns.

In 2016, she started leading the self-help group, and her husband Ranjeet, who left school at the age of 10, backed her decision. He claims that after seeing how “smart” his wife was, he realized that was a mistake.

“My children would have grown up to be just like me if my wife hadn’t gone to college. She is the cause of their potential for a better future, he claims.

Rashmi is pictured attending a class at their residence.
Rashmi, Usha Devi’s eldest child, enrolls in tuition classes to help the family augment its income.
It’s an uncommon revelation coming from a man who was raised in a culture that strongly values gender roles. Migration in some ways makes it inevitable for males to relinquish power and depend more on their wives.

In his village, where there were few skilled professions and none that he qualified for, Ranjeet struggled to find employment. Being able to support his family by working in a plant that makes ropes in the southern state of Tamil Nadu makes him proud.

Usha Devi, Shobha Devi, and the other women I spoke to continued to see themselves as subordinate to their husbands despite their increasing independence at home.

“I’m not very good; it’s him. I would never have advanced if he hadn’t helped me, says Usha Devi.

But she has emerged as a role model for many young women, especially her daughter Rashmi.

“I watched my mother change and believed I could do the same.”

Rashmi pays tuition to supplement the family’s income and hopes to accumulate enough money to go to school and become a policewoman.

Along with pursuing a job, she also wants to serve as an example for others, just like her mother did.

Villagers shouldn’t think that only boys are capable of managing a household, she argues. If only they were raised in that way and given greater freedom, “Girls can do it too.

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