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The Jamia canteen run by a set of women is located next to the Zakir Hussain Library at the Jamia University’s main campus. Salma Ansari, the vice president and Hamid Ansari’s wife, inaugurated it last year on the 16th of January. Initially, it started out as a serving canteen but because some bearers weren’t comfortable serving, it turned into a self-service cafeteria.
The back entry directs visitors to the pantry where a bunch of women can be seen dicing, slicing and shredding fresh vegetables which are then taken to the main kitchen. One of the hijab-wearing woman, is the oldest amongst the lot and is an expert in chapati making. At least 30-36 women work together to put food on the table for the students. They make more than 20kg of food daily and are happy to serve hygienic and nutritious food to the students. All women workers of the canteen hail from nearby colonies like Shaheen Bagh, Zakir Nagar, Haji Colony, Jasola, Jamia Nagar etc. Most of them belong to underprivileged and conservative families.
The canteen aims to introduce them to the world outside their homes and empower them to support their families and be independent. The canteen was started with just 4 women last year and it is overwhelming to see where it has reached. These women do not feel awkward working here as this is also considered more like household work for them. The canteen offers limited items but there is no compromise with the quality of the food.
Some women are often forced to leave their career for the sake of their families. The stereotypical expectations of what constitutes a woman’s work and what constitutes a man’s work need to be left behind now. The traditional mindset of the society according to which a man should go out and earn for the family and a woman should do the household chores needs to change. What was followed was an unjustified norm 100 years back need not be followed by the present generation.
If a woman wants to put her intelligence into use, then she should have the right to work wherever she wants to, without worrying about the opinions of sexist society members. Both a man and a woman can together run a house. The entire family can work together on the chores and produce a responsible and efficient future for our society. It is seen that when a woman gets married or becomes a mother she loses her own identity and individuality. However, going outside and working helps her create her own identity, which is beyond a mother, a wife and a daughter.
This is important for her growth and development in today’s era. Although, the India Society seems to be supportive of the modern Indian working women, there are very few initiatives which have actually helped women build on their self confidence.
Therefore, ventures like these initiated by the Jamia canteen should be encouraged to give women the same kind of exposure that men get.