About Kutch & Women of Kutch
Women in Kutch have never been a homogenous group. Their situation has varied with their community and the nature of their productive labor. Among higher caste women the practice of ‘ojhal’ was pervasive. Restrictive social norms meant that only in exceptional circumstances could women engage in work or go outside of their homes, fostering a strong dependence on their husbands and male relatives. It has also been observed that these restrictions often rendered higher incidences of physical and mental violence against women. Women belonging to the lower classes and castes also faced restrictions, but due to economic necessity have had more mobility.
Demographic indicators related to health and education add to the grim picture. A lack of sanitation, clean and adequate water and access to healthcare created a poor health environment in Kutch. The impact was especially hard on women. A high fertility rate – coupled with the lack of gynecological facilities at the taluka level and a dependency on expensive private medical care in Bhuj – resulted in a 96% rate of anemia and an infant mortality ratio of 89 deaths for every 1000 births. Many women also suffered from prolapsed uteruses and other pregnancy-related problems.
Literacy levels were also dismal among local women. Extremely low literacy rates resulted from occupational hazards, unfavorable work conditions, malnutrition, the irregular functioning of the primary education system, and work and family responsibilities being put on girls’ shoulders. It was in the context of these bleak conditions that KMVS began.
 ‘Ojhal’ refers to rigid restrictions on women’s mobility. In many communities, women were traditionally forbidden from leaving their own home or venturing outside their village.