This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by India Fellow Social Leadership Program. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

How ₹100 Is Helping These Women In Maharashtra Take Charge Of Their Lives

More from India Fellow Social Leadership Program

India fellow logoEditor’s Note: This post is a part of a campaign by The India Fellow program on Youth Ki Awaaz. India Fellows spend 13 months working at the grassroots level to bring about real on-ground change. They are also mentored to be socially conscious leaders and contribute to the development of the country. Apply here to be a part of the change.

By Jahnavi Reddy:

As part of my fellowship in 2014-15, I was placed in Rajgurunagar – a town in Pune district I was to work with an organisation called Chaitanya, which works towards women empowerment and has been working in the the region for 25 years now. A group of 15-20 women form a self-help group (SHG). Around 8-10 SHGs form a cluster at the village level. And close to 20-25 clusters form a federation at the block level. The federation provides financial and social services to all its members. The micro-credit disbursal and repayment procedures were also outlined.

I went to Chandus, a village about 10 kilometres away from where I lived in the block (area) marketplace. I waited for a woman named Krushnabai Karle, an employee of the federation and a facilitator of the SHG met me at the bus stop by an old sign with the name of the village written over it. After 15 minutes, I saw a woman walk by, in a hurry. She signalled towards me to come along with her. We were late by half-an-hour already. I ran to catch up with her, and we started walking on the long, winding road with the occasional house on its side, but mostly grass and hills and cattle and fields. I tried to make small talk. I mentioned the intern who worked with this village earlier to make myself seem less alien. She replied warmly but seemed preoccupied about being late. A man driving a tractor stopped next to us and they had a brief chat in Marathi. She gestured at me to get on it. She climbed on in her sari with the same effort as I did. The tractor took us into the village about 2.5 kilometres from the main road. We walked a little further from where her friend dropped us and entered a house with brick walls that hadn’t been painted or even coated with cement yet. But the place had a television set, a dressing mirror and a couch that looked new. Someone had spread a carpet for everyone to sit on.

Everyone kept staring at me and I kept smiling at them self-consciously. I figured I should introduce myself. Before I found my voice, Krushnabai Karle asked the women to do a round of introductions. Each woman said her name, the name of the SHG she belonged to, and her position as president/vice-president/secretary/member. The names of the two SHGs present were Bhairavnath and Gaurinath, names of Hindu deities. I immediately did a mental eye roll. Firstly, because it makes me uncomfortable when people are too open about their religious beliefs. I assumed these were people who spent money on rituals and worshiping deities and donations to temples. Secondly, they just didn’t sound good to me. It was like choosing a name for your team. I had met no one yet who would choose Bhairavnath. No one. It’s just not, um, cool. Now Daphne or Apollo or Venus would’ve been cool. That’s Greek and Roman mythology. It’s from elsewhere. The ‘other’ is always cool, isn’t it?

It was my turn now. I told them about myself, still quite self-conscious. Krushnabai then began to talk about the need for financial, legal and health counsellors and encouraged the women to attend training to qualify as counsellors in their village. Many of them seemed eager to do so. Then out came the cash. Each woman saves a monthly amount of ₹100. This was collected and given to the president of the group. Then began the repayments of existing loans, and a new loan was given for someone’s child’s school expenses. All of this amidst loud non-stop laughter and banter. Krushnabai kept talking about this new hair oil that made your hair darker. They had these detailed log books to enter all the details of their transactions. The math was done rapidly by the presidents and cross checked by Krushnabai. She ended the meeting with a prayer and left with her bag to the next meeting. There were 14 groups in this village.

It all looked like a well-oiled machine. I was told this is the oldest and most successful federation in the state. And no, it wasn’t amusing or awe-inspiring to see that these women understood the importance of savings, could access credit and were able to use it productively and repay their loans on time. It just felt right and normal. The federation requires that properties bought from their loans be registered under the woman’s name in order to ensure they are financially secured in the future.

Four women belonging to SHGs in Chandus have set up a dairy from a federation loan after being trained in dairy management. They say they don’t get enough milk from the village in spite of higher returns per litre because a lot of people prefer the other dairies run by men. They don’t trust these women to keep going for very long. I guess they all had to seek their husbands’ and in-laws’ permission before they joined a group. Maybe their daughters won’t have to. Absolute gender equality is a distant dream. But these look like good roads.

Do find out more about the SHG federation movement and its genesis in our country. It will not fail to inspire you.

About the author: Jahnavi Reddy is a 2014 cohort India Fellow who was working with Chaitanya in the areas of rural finance and literacy in Western Maharashtra. The federation mentioned above is the Grameen Mahila Swayamsiddha Sangh, which is the state’s first, promoted and nurtured by Chaitanya.

_

Image provided by author.
You must be to comment.

More from India Fellow Social Leadership Program

Similar Posts

By India Fellow Social Leadership Program

By India Fellow Social Leadership Program

By India Fellow Social Leadership Program

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below