Any sound in the night used to startle Venu in her sleep.
A twig breaking somewhere, a dog howling or an unnatural rustle nearby, made her hold her breath and eyes widen with caution.
Only after some time passed by and nothing happened, she would heave a sigh of relief and slowly go back to sleep.
There were also times that she would wake up her small son, asking him to keep quiet and hold a sickle in her hand, preparing to tackle the impending danger.
Fortunately, nothing untoward happened.
Venu from village Dasoda, is a single woman bringing up her son.
She is not single because she has been deserted.
It was SHE who actually DESERTED her husband. He was a heavy drinker and suspicious by nature and beat her regularly. She came back to her own village, her small toddler in tow, but her own family refused to give any support or shelter.
One of the first things needed was a roof above their head. The day used to pass somehow under a tree or in the fields but the main question was of passing the night.
Ultimately, a villager with a kind heart allowed Venu some small space adjoining the concrete wall near his own house. She collected sticks & other material, borrowed strings and using local methods wove the sticks into a sheet. With the wall of the owner’s house becoming one side, the other 3 sides made of sticks came up, forming a single room.
A single woman is the cynosure of all eyes, especially some men. She is supposed to be an easy prey for sexual gratification or even rape. Many women just suffer this humiliation and sometimes exploitation.
It was this fear which was keeping Venu awake, night after night. The dilapidated structure which was her one room home could offer some shelter from the sun, rains and winds but not from the groping and hungry hands of unnaturally perverted minds.
As Venu gained respect due to her fight, her neighbor offered her home to Venu.
She lived in her hut and worked for her living during the day but started going to her neighbor’s home for sleeping at night. This arrangement has worked since the past many years.
Fighting to make the two ends meet, she joined the Self Help Group of Women to have some savings. Tried out odd jobs for increasing income. She also won a contract for serving mid-day meals for preschool children. Her son also grew up.
A government scheme offering support for construction of homes for the needy came by. Venu was delighted but her heart fell when she heard that some basic deposit was necessary to avail of that scheme as a beneficiary. Living on subsistence and educating her son, there was hardly any capital left in hand. The committee from Chetana-Vikas on deserted women and widows, had already decided to help her.
Friends, it was your support which made it possible for Venu to lift a loan to pay this small deposit of Rs.5,000 ($ 81) and enroll as a beneficiary.
With great enthusiasm, and with help from other villagers and women friends she has constructed a house. The scheme offers her a benefit of Rs.1,00,000 ($ 1624).
Although living in a small house, but in reality a shelterless Venu and her son are now proud owners of a four room concrete house which gives security from unwanted elements.
She sleeps in peace in her own house. Venu has finally come home.
Dear friends, in the upcoming festival season, we want you to ask your near and dear ones, friends, to direct their gifts in a form which can help people like Venu. You can see that even a small drop can bring big significant changes to these lives. To make it easy for you the link is provided below.
Venu knows about you all and wishes A VERY HAPPY AND JOYOUS DIWALI to all of you ! The Chetana-Vikas Team joins in wishing the best for you !
Niranjana MaruProject Leader
GIVE UP ? .... SAYS WHO ?
Padma Raut from village Manikwada, stands out from other rural women in more ways than one. A gritty personality with a ‘never say die’ attitude; Not a person to mull long over spilt milk, she fights back with a vengeance. The difficulties have to bow down ultimately.
A life which has consistently thrown challenges at her from a very young age- Poverty, lack of education, lack of resources, with mother dying of snake bite, father being swept away and lost in flood waters. She herself was married off as a second wife to a person who already had 2 daughters from the first marriage.
Her spirited fight back led her to try out as many things as possible. Anything which could give some money to tide things over for the next few days. Educated only upto 1st standard in school, she worked as agricultural labourer, tried her hand in odd jobs of tailoring, working as an insurance agent, established a small shop selling stationery.
She also tried selling bangles, worked even as a barber for small children - a trade operation by a WOMAN unheard and unseen in rural India. She gets Rs.5-10 for each trimmed head, earning an average of Rs.175/- ($3) per month. All trades with meager capital and most working only as seasonal.
Meanwhile, her husband tried to set her on fire after a drinking bout.
Life stumbled along with impending marriages of daughters, a costly affair in India, a drunkard husband, education, food …. and after some time, even her husband’s death which brought fresh problems in its wake.
At such times, the question is more about survival, than rights.
After a few years her inherent spirit goaded her to tackle things squarely.
The support from GlobalGiving came along. On advice from other committee members, she sought access to a higher credit. A loan amount of Rs.10,000 ($168) allowed her to start a small trade of spices especially red chillies, an important ingredient in Indian cooking.
She bought the chillies at wholesale prices, when the prices were low in the market.
She converted half into powder and sold this processed spices at retail prices.
Cost price = Rs.18,000 for 300 kg. of chillies. Processing cost = Rs.1,500 for 150 kg. of chillies. Selling price= Rs.14,000 for 140 kg of chilly-powder. (10 kg is lost in processing). (From chillies cost of Rs.9,000 + Processing Rs.1,500 = Total cost Rs.10,500). 150 kg of whole chillies still remain in her home.
She usually keeps the selling price a few notches lower than that commanded in the market. And takes utmost care to maintain the quality of her product. Even if the profit is low, it is the business which comes to her. She plans to expand the business further.
She has already repaid the loan amount to the federation. This will go to help another deserted woman in need.
Her husband no more, her sole aim in life is to get a decent education for her son. With this stability in life, her go-getter personality consistently keeps on trying to help other women with difficult lives, egging them on to step out and improve their condition. Her motto - NEVER GIVE UP !
Friends, please note that your support in terms of time or resources actually gives you and your friends a chance to help women like Padma, providing vehicles which should and will help them catch up with rest of the society.
I request you to promote this link http://www.globalgiving.org/projects/empower-deserted-women-and-widows-in-rural-india/,
Thank you !
Warm Regards from me and Padma !
Niranjana Project Leader
The night was long…………………....!
The darkness enveloped the home. The woman of the house could feel the bleak, black night. She could not fathom how she would give her children enough food and decent education through whatever little her husband earned. This thought was gnawing on her mind, day and night.
As she sat brooding in her hut, one night she just rummaged through a bundle of old, worn out clothes. She got a blouse (a part of attire worn by Indian women on the upper body). She examined the piece and slowly opened the stitched portions one by one and separated them. She further studied the pieces and cuts of the unraveled blouse. Using a thread and a needle, she carefully sewed up the pieces all over and made the blouse whole again.
This is how Kuresha Sheikh started her small business of sewing blouses for women. Being a muslim woman, nobody of her family would allow her to go out and work. Her father-in-law who did not see eye-to-eye with her husband, cut off the electricity connection. She continued sewing by lamp light.
With the money earned, she could buy a sewing machine after two years and the business took off. With great difficulty she could give some education and vocational training to her children. She made use of a government scheme providing sewing machines and acquired 2 machines. Her two daughters learnt from her and run these machines, together with her.
Still, it was a difficult life.......
And then, her husband died due to cancer. All her earnings and support could not save him.
She was a member of the Self-Help Group by that time. Chetana-Vikas offered some advice to streamline her business which was running, but, haphazardly and inconsistently.
Taking heed of this advice she started a tailoring class which provided a certified training program to the trainees. Very soon, girls and women from her village and atleast 6 neighboring villages started joining the professional course, giving her a steady income.
Alongwith this, the money from YOUR support was used for buying accessories needed for tailoring, other sewing skills and dress designing for the trainees in her class giving more option to the trainees. The class is run in her one room home and till now about 70 girls have already benefited from the six month courses. This course helps these girls to start their own businesses.
Kuresha Sheikh has been instrumental in organizing other muslim women of her village. By practice, the muslim women do not come out of their homes. The group has started sharing with Chetana-Vikas, their problems and needs of better livelihood.
Friends, every time we share with you stories of different women.It is interesting to note HOW these women try to better their lives.
A gritty and determined Kuresha, with some able support is now a pioneer in her village for the development and improvement of lives. YOUR help lights up the lamp in desolate homes.
Friends, let this supporting community grow through you.Please ask everyone you know to visit http://www.globalgiving.org/projects/empower-deserted-women-and-widows-in-rural-india/.
“2, 5, 7, 10, or 20 years” are the type of figures we hear from the women – the time of their widowhood, the times when they have been totally alone and desolate in the world, sometimes with very small children.The times when the other family members suddenly start seeing them as burden, the times when they also notice a glint in unknown men’s eyes. These are also the times when the sudden passing away of the earning member makes them realize that they do not possess any monetary skills to earn a decent livelihood on their own. These are the times when, in many cases, the children drop out of school to help bring in some money, by working in fields or doing some odd job. There might be few helping hands, but many derisive gestures.
Actually, the policy making bodies HAVE thought of this situation, and a government scheme is in existence to help such women. Even if small, the government gives help of Rs.600/month (approximately US $ 11) to a widow/deserted woman and if with children, an additional help of Rs.250 (US $ 5) /child / month to her. A death by accident also entitles her to an immediate compensation of Rs.10,000/- (about US $ 188).
Apart from a few, 90% of the women did not know that such a scheme exists. None of the village governing bodies makes an active effort to inform the women about their rights. When the committee formed by Chetana-Vikas went into the thick of the problem, they also found that the women were unaware and ill equipped to gather supportive documents required, which are at least 8 in number, like the photo ID card, proof of residence, proof of husband’s death, proof of low income, etc….. Getting each of this individual document from the government agencies is by itself an uphill task….. expensive too !Moreover, whenever some aware women have filed applications, they are harassed by village body officials by deliberate delaying tactics, asking for favors in lieu of sanctioning their names and in general, just-forgetting about the women. Widespread and unchecked corruption forces the women to stop trying to get even this meager amount, which is rightfully for them and their children.
A six member women committee trained by Chetana-Vikas, working in villages north of Wardha district – goes into all the above problems. They approached the women, help them with information, with methodology, sometimes accompany them to tackle corrupt officials, sometimes even search out the application forms buried in the files of officials.
There have been times when these committee women have directed the officials about the appropriate methodologies to be followed. They also try to ensure the receipt of the right amount and at the promised time. These committee women, through last year, have already filed 143 new cases and also revived a few old and stagnated cases from six villages. Some women have started getting their money after completing the due formalities.
This year we will also bring you stories of struggle of these brave committee-women who just want to help their sisters stand on their own feet and avail their rights for better livelihood.
We again appeal you to strengthen their hands and continue to spread the message among family members and friends. Ask them to visit http://www.globalgiving.org/projects/empower-deserted-women-and-widows-in-rural-india/.
Also visit the Global Giving page to see in how many different ways you can help. Any upcoming event like a birthday, anniversaries, marriage functions can be made use of to start a new trend.
Let us make it an eventful and meaningful 2013 for the women we are working for.
Thank you !
FACING CHALLENGES 24 x 7 !
As a young bride ……
Filled with dreams and enthusiasm for future, a young Archana entered into married life with Vijay. What she did not know, was that, she was slyly being deceived into a partnership which would bring only misery and pain. Her in-laws suppressed the fact that her husband was terminally ill. It was after some months into marriage that she came to know about it.
Bristling with silent anger, she decided to face life in whatever constructive way as possible. She helped her husband in illness, took him to hospital. She had conceived already, gave birth to a son, but decided not to have further issues.
When her husband died …..
“I had developed fondness for my husband and was still in shock at his demise. I was in for further shock when my in-laws asked me to hand over the child to them and leave.”
I said, “enough of injustice from these people.”
“I fought with my in-laws and got to stay on after partitioning the house.”
“I could do this because I was armed with information given at camps held by Chetana-Vikas about my legal rights, property rights.”
“I had no money, I was doing odd jobs as an agriculture labourer and was living hand to mouth.”
“My friends, women members of our Self Help Group, used to help me with small loans which were used up for every day living only. Seeing my integrity and honesty, they then recommended my name for getting a loan of higher amount.”
“I have come to know that, this was made possible because of your support”.
“I am happy to tell you that with this money I could set up a small shop at home.”
“My villagers like many different type of things. So I decided to stock up an variety of things like stationery, sarees (an Indian attire), various cloth materials, inexpensive artificial jewelry etc. I even sold the miniature Indian Flag on our independence day.”
“I go to the fields at 10 am and come back at 6 pm. There was still time on hand while waiting for customers. I decided to buy a sewing machine.”
“Due to budget constraints, I bought a second hand machine within the same loan amount. Now, on an average, I can stitch 2 cloth materials a day. My son helps me in tending to customers when he is free.”
“Now with some steady and extra income, slowly my life has started picking up. I can now start hoping for a future and also a decent education to my child.”
“ I will continue to fight for myself, my son & my house.”
Archana Mhaiskar is from village Pimpalgaon Lute. In her life of 32 years, she is facing challenges 24 x 7. Instead of moping over her sorrows, she is willing and eager to meet these challenges.
Appropriate support whenever and wherever needed helps her to go ahead confidently.
We once again call out to continue helping women like Archana who are ready to meet such challenges, by providing opportunities.
The upcoming "Festival of Deepawali" would be a good opportunity to spread the light. Please tell your circle of friends and relatives about http://www.globalgiving.org/projects/empower-deserted-women-and-widows-in-rural-india/
Warm Regards from me & Archana
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http://www.chetanavikas.org (presently under reconstruction, but accessible)