Back in 2012, Pranita was forced to send her own daughter to an orphanage. She had dropped out of college and felt trapped in a situation of poverty and neglect.
She now works as a cook in the fast-food chain.
“Every day, you have to work and you feel lonely. I want to get married. I want to have a good life,” she said. “But I want to have some support for myself. I have no husband, no help from anyone, no one is looking out for me.”
Here she is making chicken korma with fried onions, which is the favorite dish at work.
There is no fallback plan for Pranita. Her goal to become a breadwinner so she and her family can build a home was complicated by the lack of jobs outside her kitchen.
“People in the village don’t want to work,” she said. “We cannot have a strong woman.”
Pranita and her daughter, Rachana, in the village of Manisharayan, India. Courtesy of our producers Rebecca Schoenberger and Jenna Sachs
We met four Indian women who work as cooks and housekeepers across the region, none of whom had received any public support from anyone.
In the event of a national movement to empower Indian women, we expected the message to include a call for caring and oneness, for activists to tout their efforts to improve the lives of India’s women first.
Yet the issue remains as insular and prevalent in India as it was in the United States when the #MeToo movement erupted.
Instead, activists like Priya Daboli have focused their attention on domestic violence.
“I strongly feel that sexual harassment within the workplace is a reality and it’s something that has to be talked about,” she said. “It has to be talked about from the start.”
Yet they have also faced battles with the police and bureaucrats who refuse to believe women who make such accusations.
“This is an ongoing problem,” said Sonia Dutt, the director of domestic violence at the National Commission for Women. “We have to do something about it. We have to sensitize people at the policy level so that such attitudes can be curbed.”
Kurindam Velmei always dreamed of going to college and making a career for herself, but the money he earned from his job as a cook always went to his family.
His two younger sisters do not work, which means his parents, both illiterate, have to support the family.
The hardest part is that he has to support his family without a job of his own.
“I have to save so that we can get a small home and build a house for my parents,” he said. “I have dreams, but my dreams are constantly delayed because I’m a cook and I have no income.”
Kurindam Velmei in the coastal village of Porbandar, India. Sarah Pennestriem
Tributes To Victims of Sexual Harassment in India Mr. Ravindra Savhane pictured in his private photo portfolio at home in Narasimha
Kolkata resident Devina Bose has spent the past three years living the high-stress life of a domestic worker, cooking for her family, often 17 people in one home.
She lives in a two-room rented house where her widowed father lives with her and helps with her children.
Devina said she didn’t have a night job because she feared retaliation. If she had one, she said, it would be with the day-laborer community, which she said “cannot provide security to any woman or girl and does not even allow employment of women in their ranks.”
Shimla resident Aparna Das regularly finds “rude and offensive” comments on her Instagram account.
But she finds her role in life more meaningful than it’s been for a long time.
“I try to help those less fortunate than myself and the helpless,” she said. “I do try to help. I do try.”