Empowerment Exhibition: Pathways in India – The Summer Intern Blog Series

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Here, in India the Pathways team is sifting through the data collected in a whirlwind two weeks in Kalahandi and Kandhamal, the two districts in Orissa where Pathways has been active. Our team of eight worked tirelessly, each day.  Admittedly, our first day of interviews was a bit of a shamble: the batteries in our recorders died, focus group participants were nowhere to be found, and interviewers were needed in two places at once.

Chaos carried over into the next day – our first note-taking day. Filling out interview notes and time sheets, was by necessity, a learn-by-doing experience.  But by the end of the week, we had these things down to a science.  And in rain or shine (mostly rain, since it’s monsoon season here), with or without extra flipchart papers and spare batteries, our team successfully completed more than 30 focus groups and over a dozen interviews.

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We all enjoyed the change of scenery, getting out of a bustling Indian city of loud car horns and crowded streets.  We felt the nervous thrill that comes while arranging ourselves in a circle and pulling out supplies right before a focus group begins.  We lunched on country chicken; a highlight for all, since you can’t get it here in Bhubaneswar.  We shared late nights pouring over recordings; Eliza and I thought it our American duty to explain the concept of the “midnight snack.”

But, as much fun as we had collecting the data – in my opinion – now comes the best part!  We’re settling into the notes and reports and digging through them to unearth the major themes.  Like any trained anthropologist, I relish qualitative research.  But more recently, I am especially thrilled because I have come to regard it as a manner of curating.  Unlike the classical sense of arranging art and artefacts to show their significance, we get to arrange people’s stories to represent a snapshot of their lives.

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Our research for CARE Pathways won’t be drawing any crowds over the weekends, but it will tell a reality, and invite others into it.  I’ll give you a sneak peek into our exhibit and show you one of the pieces we’re working on.  It’s still in a very raw, but honest state:

There’s no term for empowerment in the communities where Pathways is in motion, and the concept does not translate easily.  This may have been all the better for us, as we were curious to see how women from Pathway’s communities would define it.  We found out just what an empowered woman looks like in Kalahandi and Khandhamal, and you are welcome to see how your own perceptions compare.

First, an empowered woman is courageous and confident.  She can go where she wants to go and speak to whomever she sees, and be heard.  She can manage her household and generate enough income for financial independence.  She knows the value of education and is able to provide it to her children.  Best and most illustratively of all perhaps, she drives a scooty.

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Written by Hannah Cox,
Edited by Melissa Jennings