A widespread casualty of the lockdown announced post the coronavirus outbreak, are the large-scale job losses across the nation, especially among small business owners and wage labourers from low income communities. After one such man from a village in Bihar was rendered jobless, his wife resolved to take up a job to support the family – albeit a pretty unconventional one.
Sukhchain Devi Takes Up Work As The Village Barber
Sukhchain Devi decided to ignore gendered stereotypes about the kind of work women traditionally do, and work as a barber to earn an income.
Armed with a pair of scissors, a razor, a comb, a piece of cloth, and a water container, she can be seen walking from one house to another in search of customers, in the villages under the Barri Phulwaria panchayat.
In return she accepts whatever the customer is willing to pay – be it 10 rupees, 20 rupees, or even just some rice or flour.
She Proves That Hard Work Has No Gender Bias
Sukhchain Devi’s husband lost his job as an electrician in Chandigarh, and was stuck in the city.
The family was eventually on the verge of starvation. A mother of two young sons, and a daughter, Sukhchain Devi determined that she needed to be the one to earn some money and feed her family.
Sukhchain Devi had once taken lessons from her father, a barber himself, when she was young. She recalls that she had hoped to set up her own beauty parlour one day.
“Initially, I was hesitant because giving a haircut or shaving someone’s beard is primarily done by the male members of a barber’s family. Even customers were not comfortable in the beginning, but later, they relented,” she says.
Once people accepted the idea of a female barber, Sukhchain Devi began to earn almost Rs 200 a day, and this covered her family’s expenses.
She intends to continue working as she wants to provide “the best education” to her three children.
She says, “If I manage to save some money, I will open a beauty parlour either in the local market or in the district headquarters town.”
She Is A Role Model For Others Like Her
Sukhchain Devi’s dire circumstances forced her to turn a blind eye to tradition, societal norms, and gendered stereotypes.
In taking up a traditionally male-dominated job and breaking the shackles of what women are societally conditioned and expected to do, she not only found work that she’s good at, but also found her self-worth.
The District Administration too has been moved by her extraordinary drive and courage. They have arranged a special training module for Sukhchain Devi at the district administration headquarters, to enable her to enhance her skills and continue her work even after the lockdown.
Sukhchain Devi has become a role model for others in the village who are facing severe crises during the lockdown. She represents the courage needed to break out of harmful societal norms and stop fearing the unconventional.
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