A young mother, a dreamer, a ‘do-er’
“We used to migrate to Hyderabad for work. There, we used to work in brick kilns. It was back-breaking work and we were away from home. Even the pay was terrible. We could hardly sustain ourselves financially and I feel that was the toughest period of my life.” Thirty-year-old Prabhasini Chhatria still looks melancholic when she looks back at her days as a migrant worker.
Prabhasini, in her thirties now, is from the village of Beherabahal, in the Bongomunda block of the Balangir district, in Odisha with her husband, a four-year-old daughter and two-year-old son. The couple stopped migrating when, in 2015, Trickle Up and Odisha Livelihoods Mission started working in their village with an aim to eradicate extreme poverty. The objective of this partnership was to contextualise Trickle Up’s Graduation Approach to the existing framework of the National Rural Livelihoods Mission, thereby helping households living in extreme poverty graduate out of it by practising sustainable livelihood options.
When the Self Help Group Nari Shakti was formed in Prabhasini’s village, she was chosen as one of the ultra-poor participants for this initiative. As a participant, she received a seed grant which helped her to start her own small business as a vegetable vendor. In the small patch of land they owned, she started cultivating lady-fingers, bitter gourd, and long beans. Following the training she received from OLM and Trickle Up, soon the quality of her produce made news in the locality. The amount of profit Prabhasini started earning was unprecedented in her life.
The Self Help Group taught her the value of savings. Along with saving ₹10 every week with the group, she started saving a part of the profits she earned from her business. Soon, she was able to take out a loan from her group, add it to her savings, and buy two bullocks with ₹20,000. Immediately, she worked out an alternate livelihood plan with the field staff working in her village, and started to use her bullocks to till her land for better results, and renting them out to others at ₹300 per day.
“I have only studied until the third standard. But I am definitely going to ensure that my daughter completes her education. If with the education I have, I am being able to run this business and run my home, imagine what she could do if she studied! I am going to make her capable enough to stand on her own two feet. Through this process of forming groups, making livelihood plans, starting our own businesses and improving our lives, I have realised the amount of power and strength we women have. I want my daughter to grow up knowing the same,” said Prabhasini, with her infectious smile.
One of the things Prabhasini always wanted to own was a television set. With the profits she earned from her business, that was one of the first things she bought.
“I can’t sit idle unless I am watching TV. That is one thing I love doing. Otherwise, I am always wondering what next. So next on my list is a motorbike. I want to become a mobile vegetable vendor. Now that I know that the organic vegetables I produce are of great quality and are popular with the customers, I want to be able to reach more customers in different places without the involvement of middlemen. Not only will this help me increase my profits, but it will also help me create a good amount of savings for my young children. After all, everything I do is to give them a comfortable and happy life,” she is confident.
Prabhasini is one of those young women in her village who have set an example by being un-apologetically driven about her dreams and passionate about her desires. She is one of the major reasons why the next generation in the village dream of a different kind of life and of breaking the cycle of inter-generational poverty. On International Youth Day, while we celebrate her story, let us also prioritise investing in the dreams of young women like her, who are just waiting for a chance to prove themselves.
About the author: Atreyee Kar is a Communications Officer with Trickle Up