Widowed At 23 And Shamed, Nirmal Chandel From Himachal Pradesh Fights For The Upliftment Of Widows
And by started, it meant that it was when she
lost her 30-year-old husband to a fatal heart-attack. As awful as it must have
been for her to Nirmal to deal with her sorrow. Instead of consolation and
supportive words if nothing at all, she was shamed and accused of having had
caused her husband to die. Immediately after, the poor treatment towards her
which seemed like a punishment was imposed on her. She was made to live in a
dimly lit room with not even a fan and made to spend the following year under
It didn’t stop there, she was considered a
burden and shown no mercy, not even by her own parents let alone her in-laws.
She was not allowed to wear colorful clothes, eat with the rest of family, or
attend any functions or gatherings. Perhaps, it had to get worse before it got
better but Nirmal rose out and free from all these shackles confined on to her
by the rest of the society and her family.
Nirmal truly is thankful for having been
introduced to an NGO that works towards the welfare of women. And thus started
her journey to better not only her life but make other countless lives be
independent and free from living unkind and wary lives.
She joined the Social Upliftment through Rural
Action also dubbed as SUTRA and NGO where she got accustomed and trained for a
role of accountant and was eventually hired. Nirmal initially expected to be
offered a mere clerical role since she was just a matriculate but amazingly
enough, she got to be an accountant instead. She made a monthly salary of 350
rupees and fought for her own sake and take back her life in her own hands.
With Nirmal changing her own life and having a
renewed outlook towards things, she continued to renew and change the lives of
more than 16,000 women just like her. Should that mean widowed, unmarried, or
divorced women, she helped them all. By 2005 she formed her very own
organization, the ‘Ekal Nari Shakti Sangathan’ and fight for women like
Nirmal learnt a lot from her time at SUTRA,
for someone who was criticized and pointed fingers at for so long, it wasn’t
punishable anymore to make mistakes ever so often when she first started
working at the NGO, she had room to learn and grow. 15 years passed and she was
adept in her auditing, tallying, accounting and numbers skill and knowledge
amongst other things.
Her success and freedom were still not a fine thing in the eyes of her parents, ashamed as they were before, they asked her to come back home and spare her an allowance of 500 rupees every month instead. But Nirmal knew better and refused without hesitation, she was well aware of how this would only bring about a cycle of dependency and her freedom would be controlled by her parents and that was no way to live her life, on the whims of other people who don’t necessarily want the best for her.
The most wonderful experience for Nirmal
arrived when she was asked to attend a widows’ meet in Rajasthan. She saw
numerous women who shared similar stories, similar lives, faced similar or
varying atrocities from the society and others. The noticeable positive thing
about them was that they were all united, independent, and together fighting
their way to freedom endowed in colorful clothes and jewelry.
This was too a learning experience as she met
women from different states and parts of the country who faced tough times and
stood there that day, asking question that Nirmal never would have asked or
thought of. Questions asking why it was okay for male widowers to live their
lives comfortably and remarry when the same rights were not allowed for a
After this exhilarating experience, Nirmal
held a small meet and greet for widows in the district of Mandi whilst
collaborating with few other NGO’s and as a mark of a silent protest, a
surprising number of 120 women met on the NGO’s grounds donning bindis and
This was followed by monthly meetings and
awareness workshops for women discussing various issues, ways to be
self-fulfilled to earn a livelihood independently, start small businesses. She
even created a WhatsApp group to post in any job vacancies and has since been
able to get numerous women get jobs.
Ever since, in the year 2008, Nirmal along
with 3,500 other women marched from Dhammi to the Chief minister’s house
(former CM, Prem Kumar Dhumal) in Shimla proposing the plan for fulfilling a 25-point
plan of demands. Enough blood, sweat and tears later, three of their demands
for health insurance, ration cards and social security were agreed upon and