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The functional knowledge imparted through the Navodaya classes have been made to good use by the women of Sardardih village. Normally 12 noon to 3pm has been designated as rest hours for the women workers working under NREGA. But more often than not the NREGA supervisors take advantage of the fact that most women do not know how to see the time or are not even aware of the importance of time. The supervisors often make the women work beyond the scheduled hours marked for rest. But now the women either look into the watch themselves or ask the time and if it is beyond their scheduled time they inform the supervisor that it is their rest period and they would not work any further! The supervisors are OF LIFE more cautious about the fact and are careful not to make them work beyond scheduled hours.
1) Meera Mahato of Amlaghutu village wanted to start a poultry business. She had applied for a loan from the government as per the Self-Help scheme for women. However she could not utilize the cheque given to her since she did not have a bank account in her name. The “Bachat Shivir” (Savings Camp) gave her an opportunity to open a bank account in her name. She got an account in her name on the day of the camp and the best thing was that that once-illiterate Meera obtained it by signing her own name which she had learnt during Navodaya classes. She is now the proud owner of a poultry farm.
2) Kuresha Bibi of Kulthikri-Chirudih village was feeling helpless. Her husband who works in Bangalore used to send her money by Money Order in the village post office . It was time consuming and troublesome. She approached our WRC supervisors who advised her to open a bank account through the “ Bachat Shivir”. Heeding their advice she did so and now she has no troubles at all. Her husband sends her money directly to her bank and she collects it from there or saves part of it. In this way she has saved both time and money !
"Give us our due wages” – this was the demand of the women’s group from Sardardih village – all being members of Swadhina Women’s Committee. These women were negotiating with the new Forest Officer of the region – demanding the government approved wage of Rs.133/- per day for afforestation programme of planting saplings in the forest areas. For days together they were being paid Rs.100/- for a day’s work inspite of the government rate of Rs.133/-. They decided that enough was enough and decided to take a collective action against this violation. The Forest Officer gave in to their demands and ordered his officials to pay them as per the new rate.
Young Airun Khatoon of Bordih village is an enthusiastic girl who has been a regular in all the programmes of Swadhina since 2010. She is also a member of the women’s committee. Way back in 2010, Airun , then appearing for her matriculation, was being prepared to be married off. However the WRC supervisors and other members spoke to Airun’s father and mother to stop the marriage and continue with her studies since she was a studious girl. After much persuation they relented and let her appear for her examination. As a mark of support to her cause she was given token gifts as a part of the Education Support Programme. Airun passed her matriculation with very good marks. This invoked a positive attitude on the part of her parents and they let her continue her education. This year Airun successfully passed her Higher Secondary Examination with flying colours and this time her parents have themselves enrolled her in a college for higher studies. Airun’s father now dreams of seeing his daughter becoming self-reliant and confident and marriage is no where in the cards! Enthused by the performance of Airun, her parents let her younger sister Madina to continue her studies as well and following her sister’s path Madina
too has passed the Matriculation this year and has been enrolled in High School in Katin. The constant monitoring and awareness-building has not only saved two lives from being pushed to the abyss of darkness but has also given them a scope to be a living example to others!
The group of 14 women from Chirudih village is an example of how joint ownership of women can reap rich dividends. The Community Granary given to them as a part of the former EU-WHH project is being made best use by them as a joint property. They have not only used the Granary for food security but have also managed to save around Rs.17000/- obtained by selling the surplus grains. They have kept the money in the account of their women’s group. Not only this, they have utilized the trainings imparted to them from time to time by maintaining proper records of the transactions and grain storage. As a mark of recognition of their effort the President of the group Nunibala Karmakar and Secretary Shefali Mahato were felicitated during Gender Meet on 26.01.2012. Shefali was also invited as a guest resource person for the two-day workshop held at Kolkata in March 2012 on “joint ventures by women’s groups”.
Rupali Mahato’s story is straight out of a fairy-tale book. When we first saw Rupali Mahato of Kanku village she was a teenager who had nothing to look forward to in her life. She was severely polio-afflicted and couldn’t use one of her legs. Most of the time she used to walk with support from others. To give relief from her depression her family gave her permission to work as an animator for Swadhina. Having difficulty in walking she had also stopped studying. The first thing we did was to give her an animator’s cycle to ride. Rupali was perplexed! Were we trying to joke with her? We gave her the confidence that she could always pedal with one foot. She tried and was successful and soon she began to cycle very confidently. Her polio-afflicted foot too regained strength, probably due to physiotherapeutic effect of cycling and she could now walk on her own. On the other she regained her confidence through the different leadership trainings we imparted to her – she was even encouraged to continue her studies. Alongside
she became a very confident village-worker who could speak publicly, talk to the women, encourage other young girls. Meanwhile she also continued to study. This year Rupali completed her graduation and is now pursuing a computer course. Alongside she devotes the rest of her time for the development of other women of her village through Swadhina
Tulamoni & her husband Sahadev belong to Gamardih village. For past one year Tulamoni Hansda had been working in different projects under the NREG scheme. However one year had passed yet Tulamoni & Sahadev had not got their due amount of Rs. 2580/-. This matter reached to our local WRC co-ordinator through Tulamoni. Finally in June this year Sadhu Tudu on behalf of Swadhina WRC and another friend led a team of villagers to Jamshedpur to resolve the problem. They approached the NREG related officials in Jamshedpur and explained the situation. As a result of all this struggles, the money was sanctioned and Tulamoni got her due of Rs.2580/-.With this, in the agro-season Tulamoni and her family sowed seeds of Brinjal and String Beans using a part of this money in the 4 Bigha
land that they have. Tulamoni and Sahadev have a son studying in class-4 and a daughter studying in class-2. Tulamoni has already made up her mind to properly utilize the rest of the money and the money she would earn from her agro-produce towards the education of her children. She wants them to study well and do well.
Dalim Murmu is a very active member of Kanku Swadhina WRC. She takes part in all the programmes and takes interest in different initiatives by Swadhina WRC. She stays with her son in her father’s house, along with her sister. Dalim’s family has agricultural land. She wanted to improve the productivity of her land, as well as of those surrounding that land. Through Swadhina WRC sources she had heard about the
Irrigation Well Scheme under the NREG projects. With support of Swadhina WRC she applied for this scheme.Dalim’s application was submitted and was also accepted very soon. The scheme amounting to 1,50,000 was granted to Dalim.The irrigation well is completed and Dalim has already utilized the water from the well for her agro-land of 4 bighas. She is hopeful with this every year she would have a bountiful of crop and she would be able to help her son, who is doing his matriculation, continue his education.

1) Sarala Mandi is a widow with two sons. When her husband passed away she felt helpless without any support, to add to her woes was the constant eye over her piece of land by the close relatives of her husband. Sarala was distressed but decided not to give up. She even worked as an animator for Swadhina for some time. Through the different gender meets and

programmes that she attended she was confident that whatever others may say, the land and the property is rightfully hers and stuck on to her property. Today she proudly manages her house, her piece of land and works for NREGA projects as well. “ I am self-sufficient now. I know my rights and no one can evict me even if they want to. I can manage everything on my own”, proudly declares.

2) Renuka Mahato of Dandudih village lives with her husband Sristidhar and Sarala four daughters. Renuka had long dreamt of a house her own but did not have proper access to government schemes. However when she heard that Swadhina WRC is helping local women in procuring such schemes, she approached them. They promised to help her. Forms were given, filled up and submitted to the respective department. Renuka has four daughters . Three of the daughters were already going to school – in classes 6 , 8 and 10 respectively. However one of the daughters, Nilima, left her studies two years ago. Swadhina members encouraged her to continue her studies. She was hesitant, as she had already become 18 years. Swadhina members gave her moral support. Renuka has already received the Rs.45,000/- towards the Indira Abash Yojana and constructed the house. As per rules, the house under Indira Abash belongs to Renuka and will be her own property. Nilima in the meanwhile got the Young Women’s Education support for her courage to continue her education. With the Education support that she has received, Nilima is encouraged enough to overcome her shyness of studying with girls younger than her.

3) Tusu Mahato’s life would have been like hundreds and thousands of girls like her had it not been for her will-power and Swadhina’s support. The beginning of story of Tusu Mahato of Hutupathar was like any other ordinary girl – Tusu was married off to a man from another village. Initially things were not so bad but gradually there were regular quarrels and discord. One day, unable to bear the situation, Tusu left her husband’s house and came back to her father’s house, where her brother was staying. Initially Tusu’s only elder brother had no problem with Tusu staying. In the meanwhile, Tusu was also a member of Swadhina’s Women’s Committee and began attending the different programmes and meets of Swadhina. Days passed and when Tusu’s brother realized that Tusu has no plans to go back to her husband’s house he began to pressurize Tusu to leave the house. Having attended the different programmes of Swadhina Tusu was aware that she has equal rights over her father’s property as her brother. She explained to her brother that she was legally entitled to enjoy her father’s property. Her brother refused to grant her the legal right over her property. But Tusu was not afraid because she knew that since she was a member of Swadhina’s Mahila Samity she had the support of a large number of women. The matter was put forward to the Gram Sabha. The members of the Gram Sabha agreed in unison that Tusu was absolutely justified in understanding and asking for her rights and she must get all her due rights. Finally Tusu’s brother had to relent. The property was divided into two equal halves whereby Tusu got 2 bighas of land. Also there was a very old ancestral tree which was sold. She was given Rs. 30,000 as half the price of the sale value.Her acquired property has become her source of livelihood and sustenance and ofcourse her SELF-RELIANCE!!

1) Rashmoni Tudu from Chirudih is a former animator of Swadhina. As a Swadhina animator she had undergone several trainings on Development Leadership which instilled in her a confidence to be a part of the Panchyat system. She is a Panchayat member of Chirudih Ward No. 5. As a ward member she has registered four names for Indira Abas Scheme and upgraded the BPL list in the area. She regularly attends the local SHG meetings. She has also helped many villagers repaire tube wells in the local area. Rashmoni takes out time from her busy schedule and regularly attends different Swadhina programmes .
2) Bela Rani Singh is the elected Oriya Gram Panchyat Pradhan of Ward No.10. She is an active worker and wants to work together for the benefit of the village. After being elected as the Panchayat Pradhan in December 2010, she has done quite a number of work in her area. First of all she updated the new BPL list and entered new names. She has helped pass proposals for 20 tube wells and 30 wells in the villages under her purview. She regularly visits the local SHG groups .She has also discussed and made arrangements for bank loans for these groups. She has also provide information regarding different Government schemes whenever anyone has approached her.
Swadhina, 34/C Bondel Road, Kolkata (Calcutta) 700019, West Bengal, INDIA
Tel: (+ 91 33) 32451730 / 22870934
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