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That we can meet everyone and share our experiences

Update:19 Jan 2019

When seven women in the remote mountain village of Rani […]

When seven women in the remote mountain village of Ranikhet first met Mala Srikanth, they stood with their heads down.Srikanth was a divorcee, retired doctor, ex-military, single mother of two daughters - and wore jeans. In this northern Indian community, all of this was unfathomable. The women had come from poor backgrounds and were there to knit.When the language changes from Hindi to local Garhwali, the topic becomes more serious. 

Conversations address taboo subjects, from birth control and alcoholism to sex and domestic violence. I have talked about things with these women that I have never told anyone before," said knitter Gudiya Khan. "We wait the whole week for Wednesday to come so that we can meet everyone and share our experiences, our ups and downs in life.At home, she sits with old family photos strewn across her bed.One shows her wedding day. Her grandmother's hand rests on her blue veil before turmeric was applied to her forehead in a traditional ritual. Married at 16 to a cousin twice her age, her life changed forever within months.

As her alcoholic husband became increasingly abusive, his addiction pushed them deeper into poverty. Within a year, she gave birth to a baby boy in a nearby village home, underage and therefore unable to go to a government hospital. Her health, her pain and her fears were forfeited to protect her husband.The Uttarakhand State Commission for Women that one in two women are victims of domestic violence.Suhela Khan, programme coordinator for UN Women India MCO, said: "Women's rights are only considered to be women's issues and are not being seen as a matter of human rights." They now come in their nicest clothes, heads held high and they walk with confidence," said Srikanth.

For her, it is not enough to knit an item that will be sold with pity by an NGO, if at all - you knit to the highest standards, standards that she believes every woman should hold themselves to in their daily life as well.As knitting needles flash between fingers, the women waste no time talking up a frenzy, interrupting each other and occasionally drowning out the chatter with laughter. In recent years, a quiet matriarchal revolution has been building at the foothills of the Himalayas, reshaping a system that has long dictated the lives of women. The change in Ranikhet and surrounding villages stems from a knitting circle.Since forming five years ago, 14 women now meet every Wednesday morning in Srikanth's home and knit perfectly - a feat achieved through months of training. 

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