Manipuri women are known to the rest of the world for their courage, skill and active involvement in many social, economic, political and cultural activities. Women’s role is active in every aspects of life. They have shown their talents in sports, art and culture, medicine, administration, academics, business etc. History of Manipur has shown the clear evidence of women’s involvement in politics in the two Nupi Lan and their great contribution in the movement of Nisha-Bandh and Meira Paibi in curbing the social evils in the society.
A woman performs the role of wife, mother, sister, daughter, daughter-in-law, sister-in-law in the family. At the same time she also acts as a teacher, mentor, administrator, organizer, health officer etc. at their offices or working places. Women have multiple roles to be played in her life. As a daughter, a woman is traditionally responsible for taking care of her parents. As a wife, she is expected to serve her husband, preparing foods, clothing and other personal needs. As a mother, she has to take care of the children and their needs, including education too. As a daughter-in-law, she is responsible to serve her in-laws. Her role is to make all the expectations from her whether at home or workplace met.
Recently the state government has issued an order regarding the school time starting from 8am and the state cabinet has also taken a decision about the working hour and days of the employees of all the government offices with biometric attendance from 9am. On interacting with some working women from different work places shared their strained in coping up the system.
A woman who works at a state government department narrated that she felt so exhausted at the end of the day performing all the morning duties at home and getting ready of her to reach the office before 9am. The outcome may not have good result, she added. She could not take care of her children properly. As her baby missed her from the morning, the baby loves to makeup all the missing moment, so not allowing leaving her. In a traditional joint family where grandma, grandpa, uncle, aunty live together, it is not a problem for taking care of babies. But these days everyone seems to be busy in private or government offices. So it arises the problem of looking after the babies when their parents went for offices, she said.
A mother who doesn’t want to disclose her identity working as a state government employee expressed that among all the women, the one who suffers most is the lactating mother or mother with small kids. She gets ready her first son who in pre-nursery class for attending his class at 8am and getting herself ready to reach office before 9am. Even she did not have time to have a bath for her second son who is only one year and could not take care properly of her mother-in-law who is 80 years above having health problems. It is very hard for her to do all the household chores within a limited period of time with the small baby. Moreover her husband is in the active service.
At the first week of office after the government order, she faced many problems, even fever for not being breastfed as she remains in the office till evening. She appeals the authorities concerned to open crèche centre in every department so that mothers can feed their babies in between. That will relieve the problems of both mother and baby and not to lose the love and affection the bond between mother and child, she narrated. As there is shortage of water supply and unhygienic toilet facilities, it makes more unhygienic to take lunch at the office. And there is no good canteen to take hygienic food stuffs. After returning from office also felt fully exhausted, but no means to take rest, again need to continue the work for my family, she asserted.
Another mother from Chana Mayai Leikai expressed that it is good time to do everything in the early hours when our minds are fresh and energetic. She really appreciates the government’s decision. But at the same time she also faces many inconveniences during the peak hour at home getting ready her two sons for schools. As her sons’ school is 20 kilometer away from her residence, they need to be ready before 6.30 am. She gets up every day at 4 – 4.30 am to do all her duties of cooking, cleaning, washing etc. She has to get everything ready at night – uniforms, books, shoes, water among others. She only receives telephone calls related with the office at morning hours. Really she did not appreciate guests coming at morning. Every minute in the morning is precious and counted, she added.
A 36 years old mother working at an educational institute expressed that she performs her duty of cooking, washing, cleaning and others within two-three hours in the morning before she sends her son to school at 7 am. She used to get up at 4.30 am everyday to complete the morning work. As her income cannot afford a babysitter for her one year daughter, it creates another problem for her. With a long gap at office, her daughter did not take proper food without her mother, so she is worried of her child’s health. Again scarcity of water in her place adds more troublesome in doing her activities.
Another mother from Thangmeiband opined that the government’s new order is hard to adjust as it is in the initial stage but it will be adjusted after some months. Everyday whether it is Monday, Tuesday or Sunday there remains work all the day for every mother. She compares woman’s life as that of the hand of the clock that never stops moving. But she really enjoys the work explaining that work is life. She does not appreciate guests in the morning as it creates an additional work in her busy schedule.
An anonymous mother with two small kids expressed that it is hard to adjust with the timing to do all the morning works with the two small kids. Her two and half year son goes to crèche centre from 9am to 12am which creates problem to pick the baby while she is at office. It is again a painful for her aged mother-in-law to take care of her eight months lactating baby the whole day. She cannot feed her second baby properly due to time constraints as she moves out for office at 9am after doing all the chores within a limited period of time. She feels upset about her son if it continues for longer period that will affect her child’s health. The mother values the second Saturday holiday and Sundays as she could give maximum time to her children.
The different opinions expressed here clearly reveal that working women are still facing many difficulties to run the family and the office simultaneously. The most sufferers are mothers with small children and with no family members at home to attend their children after returning from schools. The pertinent question here is whether there will be quality education when the children go to school without proper food in the morning and will they boost up themselves at their home while their parents are at their offices.