Name: Chandrakala Chandrakant Jataal
Village: Kamkheda
Tal: Renapur
Dist: Latur

I Chandrakala Jataal, am from an ordinary middle-class family in Kamkheda village. Kamkheda is a small village in Renapur Taluka of Latur district. Actually speaking women in the villages never get to see or experience the outside world”. And also they do not receive much education.

In the villages it is only through festivals and other special occasions women go to others houses and get to know each other. My case was not different from others. I made friends and later we started a Bhisi and would open once in a week. But later it stopped due to the selfish behavior of few people. “We once again brought the women together through Adult Education programme and during the same time decided to form a Mahila Mandal.

When we went to the Zilla Parishad office for the first time to complete official formalities, we did not have the confidence to talk to the officials. We could not even greet them. But later we got well acquainted with the officials, got all the information from them regarding schemes, how to complete official formalities and documents etc. We also got grants. The necessary guidance we needed was provided by the organization from time to time.”

After the earthquake, which struck Latur on September 30th, I worked as a Sanvaad Sahayak. But I was abused by the villagers for my work as I was working with not only women but also men and also I had to talk to the government officials who were mostly men. But I decided not to give up.

When I told the men, how their house should be, they asked me not to interfere in their matters. But the women listened to me very patiently. Thus I had built a good rapport with village women. Later we explained to the women the importance of savings groups and when they realised it they formed the first savings and credit group of 20 women in 1997. We gave the women, training on how to maintain records. And now there are 7 groups in our village.

It was through the groups that women’s problems were being solved. They could support their families. Men realised their wives potential and no longer protested against their women stepping out of the house. Women are on their feet now; they have become self-dependent.

When more groups were formed women faced the problem of space for conducting monthly meetings or programmes. We took land in the name of the Mahila Mandal, collected contribution of Rs. 10,000 and with the help of the organization constructed a Mahila Mahiti Kendra.

When we were in the process of mobilizing the women in Mahila Mandals and Savings and credit groups, we got the news of the earthquake in Gujarat. I got the opportunity to go to Gujarat along with field workers of the organization.

Also I have been on various inter district and inter state study tours. I went to Madurai for a study tour to an organization to learn the concept of federations and later formed a federation here. Almost 150 women are doing various livelihood activities with loans from the federation. The federation is also working with women on various village development issues such as health, water, education, livelihood and PRI. I also stood in the Grampanchayat elections though I had no success.

When we were working on health in the village, men used to abuse us asking, “Why were we roaming about in the village?” But now the same people come to us with their problems and we solve them forgetting the past.

I have worked on various issues and was a part in organizing various programmes such as health camps, workshops for legal advice, workshops on water related information. Accessing government schemes for the helpless, deserted women, has been my work since long.

“Organizing more and more women and making them realize the real situation and mobilizing the women is the current need”

Name: Kantabai Vyankatrao Patil
Village: Ambulga
Taluka: Nilanga
District: Latur

I Kantabai Vyankatrao Patil am a resident of Ambulga village. I studied up to STD 10th and later got married. Since I was from a Patil family (considered to be high class) I was not allowed to do a job. But in 1990 when my daughter did 1 year after her marriage I was completely shaken. In 1991 I formed a Mahila Mandal in my daughter’s name and started organizing women. I started a Bhisi and would open once in a week.

Once I had been to my sister’s were I saw the meeting of women’s groups and the organization. I requested them to come to my village and guide our women.

Later in 1993 after the Latur earthquake, I worked as a Sanvaad Sahayak along with the organization. After a short training on construction I went to the villages to disseminate information on earthquake resistant houses. I conducted Mahila Mandal meetings and house to house visits and explained to them the importance of EQR houses. Women did not even know that they were getting money for house construction from the government. We discussed everything with women and asked them to open joint accounts of husband and wife and accordingly it was done.

“When women started taking interest in construction work men did not like it. Some men came to our house drunk and started abusing us. But we were not frightened”. The engineer who was appointed in the village took money from the beneficiaries for giving a completion certificate.

“When we took village rounds and asked for the problems the villagers were afraid of facing the engineer, because we were submitting our reports to the Tahsil office and there was vast difference between our’s and his reports. When the complaint reached the higher officials strict action was taken. The politicians and village men realized our importance. The engineer started accompanying us on our house visits. And 90% of the houses were constructed.”

“Going out for the monthly SCG meetings was highly exciting for women.” They talked about their grievances and joys, also their financial problems were being solved and they no longer had to be under the money lenders debt. SCG women were now getting respect. Later a federation was formed and our group was linked to the federation. Women started livelihood activities taking loans from the federation.

“Women became self-dependent. They now live their life with self-respect. Now our village women can have a dialogue with any government official without fearing them, with full confidence and accomplishing their work.” Now we not only work on savings and credit work in the Savings and credit groups but also look after various issues in the village, cluster and taluka such as health, water, education and monitoring the GP functioning.

“Women attend the GP meetings and address our grievances. They have realised that their life is not confined within four walls of the house and that they can do a lot for the society and women.”

Name: Lakshmi Shatrughna Phulsunder
Village: Wadgaon Ganja
Taluka: Lohara
District: Osmanabad

I Lakshmi Phulsunder am a woman from a small village. I spent my childhood and did my education in an urban area. But after marriage I came to this village. I worked as Balwadi (kindergarten) teacher (ZP) in Phanepur village. For 10 years I did this job. But later the government stopped this scheme and started Anganwadis.

Later in 1993 after the Latur earthquake, I worked as a Sanvaad Sahayak. Mahila Mandals were asked to select women so as to mobilize women for their involvement in the rehabilitation work. Mahila Mandal members suggested my name. Then I was sent for a short training.

Though I was a shy person, I could after the training speak in front of people. I gained confidence. I went for house visits, conducted village surveys, Mahila Mandal meetings etc. to mobilize women and to disseminate information on construction of houses and EQR techniques etc. In one village we introduced the concept of collective procurement to the villagers. The right to sanction and monitor the work for giving the grants was fully in the hands of the engineer appointed in the village by the government. They demanded money before issuing the completion certificate. We met the deputy collector and presented our report to him. He took immediate action against it. Thus people realized the power of Mahila Mandal women.

“Women should come together, discuss their issues and solve their problems through proper action and be self -dependent.”

Women attended study tours and after a lot of experience sharing there was a transformation in their views. More and more Savings and credit groups were formed. When they realized that they had no space for conducting their monthly meetings and women’s programmes they acquired a space from the Grampanchayat. Due to women’s initiatives many works on issues such as health, education, ration and other development works were done.

Many women went to Gujarat along with the organization to help the people there and shared their experience during the Latur earthquake.

“ Not only do the women develop themselves financially through Savings and credit groups but they gain a status in the house, village and taluka”

“ Women are very confidently dialoguing with government officials”

Name: Mangalbai Raosaheb Patil
Village: Katejawalga
Taluka: Nilanga
District: Latur

“I have been disseminating information among the rural women so that they can lead a better life”

I Mangalbai Raosaheb Patil, am a resident of Katejawalga, a village in Nilanga Taluka of Latur district. I have studied up to STD 11th. I too wanted to get a job and be self-dependent but my family opposed it and I was married off. After the earthquake, which struck latur on September 30th, many were rendered houseless. The government had decided to give grants to the ones who were affected by the earthquake to construct new houses. And for this the beneficiaries had to have a joint account of husband and wife. Government engineers were appointed in the villages.

Women were selected from the Mahila Mandals as Sanvaad Sahayaks by the organization. Women in our Mahila Mandal suggested my name for Sanvaad Sahayak. After a short training I started working. With the help of the Sarpanch we called a Gram Sabha to disseminate the information on construction of earthquake resistant houses. I went house to house to explain things to women. Men always said what does she know about construction? The govt. engineers definitely have more knowledge than her.

As per the report submitted by the engineer 150 houses were constricted but in actuality and as per the report given by the women only 100 houses were constructed. The engineer used to demand money from the beneficiaries for a completion certificate. And if anyone refused to give he would not get the certificate and subsequently the next instalment. I also did not get the completion certificate and my family members started cursing me. We met the engineer and threatened him that we would take his complaint to the higher officials. It was then that we got the instalments.

In Katejawalga we even did collective house construction for which we did collective procurement of construction material. In the Melavas organized in 1996-97 we understood the importance of Savings and credit groups and formed 3 Savings and credit groups in our village. We took loans from the group for different purposes. From the knowledge we brought home from an organization in Madurai we formed a federation. We ourselves manage the federation. Men have realised that their wives have shared their responsibilities.

Almost 50% of our earnings are spent on medicines. So we have developed kitchen herbal gardens so that at least the common illnesses can be cured by herbal medicines
We needed a place to conduct our monthly meetings and programmes. When we approached the GP for land in the village and he allotted it to us. But later when other Sarpanch was elected he stopped the construction work. But we did construct the MMK after a lot of struggle.

Also I got the contract to run Nirantar classes in 2 villages. Also we took initiatives in liquor prohibition but could not completely stop it.

Name: Rukhmini Baburao Koli
Village: Rajuri
Taluka and Dist: Osmanabad

I worked as a Sanvaad Sahayak after the earthquake in EQ affected villages. The government gave grants for reconstruction.

While constructing houses if the owners give even a little attention the construction will be much better. Women have taken lot of effort in the construction work and have built houses, as they want them.
Women used to even guide the masons and explain things to them very nicely.

Women started working and gathering information after they stepped out of their houses. They also told us about the difficulties in construction they were facing.

Since the women took initiative and worked the government also understood what the problems were. The Gramsevak was also helped by women in the Mahila Mandal, called them for the Gram Sabha meetings and carefully listened to their problems. As a result they gained more and more confidence.

In the beginning we did not know what a SCG was, but when I worked as a Sanvaad Sahayak I understood the importance of savings and formed a SCG. We took loans as per our needs, repaid it on time and put the savings in the bank. We built good relations with the bank and since the bank transactions were going on well our confidence was building up.

We took various training such as on construction of low cost toilets; soak pits and also mason training. Mahila Mandal got the contract for construction of toilets. They worked together and putting a lot of effort. At some places they did the construction themselves whereas at some places they monitored the construction. Every beneficiary did Shramadaan.

Village women developed through the Mahila Mandal Earlier GP women members did not know anything about the functioning of the GP. Even after completion of 5 years women did not know that they were elected and were on the GP committee. But in 1997 we decided to contest GP elections. There was a reserved seat for backward class Sarpanch and I was elected. We did not know anything but slowly understood everything.

Our answer to the men was that we might go wrong while functioning but we will learn. We progressed in our work with the support from the women in our village. I did whatever I could for my village. I tried to implement as many schemes in the village as possible. Women in the village organized themselves and became brave. I worked as the Sarpanch for 5 years and my village supported me.

Name: Shobha Vasant Bhutekar
Village: Tugaon
Taluka and Dist: Osmanabad

Earlier I never stepped out of my house, but when our Anganwadi Tai formed a Mahila Mandal and I was made the president I started going out. Later after the earthquake everyone got funds for reconstruction. Also I was appointed as a Sanvaad Sahayak. Then I had a short but intensive mason training of 3 days.

When I started my village visits to disseminate information and found out problems faced by the communities and reported them, the engineer was afraid. He came to me and said that there was no need for me to go about in the village, instead he will bring the reports for me. But I refused to do so and did house to house visits along with some women in the village and gave them information regarding construction. I usually talked to the women in the village. The engineers appointed in the village by the govt. started demanding money before issuing the completion certificate.

We cross-checked the names in the list who actually needed help for rehabilitation, and tried to get funds for them. I got recognition in the village since I was appointed as a Sanvaad Sahayak.

Since Savings and credit groups were formed many problems in the village were solved. Women tried to enforce liquor prohibition. To prohibit liquor we went to the owner of the liquor shop and asked her to stop selling liquor. When she refused to do so we went to her house and broke her liquor cans and registered a complaint against her in the police station. Later many a time we caught liquor sellers red-handed.

I was also selected on the vigilance committee formed under the Dhoki police station. And I was given the responsibility of 10 villages. The vigilance committee meeting is held once in every three months. People are now happy that there is someone to listen to their complaints.

There was no health committee in the village, so we formed a health committee with the help of the Anganwadi Tai. But committee meetings were not held regularly. So it was decided to conduct meetings on the days when immunization programmes were held. I adopted an under nourished child and took care of him providing good food and medicines, who is perfectly well now. I underwent a 3-day training on health and also have got an ID card signed by the District Health Officer.

Since the formation of Savings and credit groups in the village, women have started attending Gram Sabha meetings. They now go to schools for the flag hoisting programmes on the occasion of national festivals. They also present their problems in the Gram Sabha and Grampanchayat meetings.

If they don’t find solutions to their problems within the village, they take their complaints to the Panchayat Samiti and Tahsil officers.

Name: Vimal Shinde
Village: Yedshi
Taluka and Dist: Osmanabad

I Shinde am from a village known as Yedshi. I studied up to STD 11th. Once our Anganwadi Tai came to me and said that we should form a Mahila Mandal and gave me all the information as to why is it important and how we go about it. Later we formed a Mahila Mandal. I decided to make the utmost use of the education I had.

After the earthquake I worked as a Sanvaad Sahayak when the Mahila Mandal members suggested my name for it. In Yedshi 59 families got grants for reconstruction. We went on rounds in the village to see the construction work and did house to house visits to disseminate information.

The Mahila Mandal also got the contract for construction of toilets. We constructed 96 toilets in the village.

It was only after working together in the rehabilitation programme and toilet construction women got organized. Since 1999 women started forming Savings and credit groups. Along with savings and credit work, women even discussed various problems that existed in the village and tried to find solutions for them. They also started livelihood activities taking loan from the groups, federation and the bank.

Since there was no place for the Savings and credit groups meetings and women’s programmes they constructed a Mahila Mahiti Kendra. SCG members collected a contribution of Rs. 10,000 and the remaining expenses were borne by the organization. I provided the necessary guidance to the women in solving their village problems.

When there was an earthquake in Gujarat the Savings and credit groups helped the people there in the form of money and food grains. I went with the organization in Gujarat to help the people there in their rehabilitation work.

I have looked at various issues and have been a part in solving those problems. We have tried to solve water-related problems in the village. We took the villagers complaints to the collector. We acquired land for the Mahila Mahiti Kendra with the help of SCG women. We started development programmes for adolescent girls.

“ Building up the confidence of adolescent girls, improving their communication skills and making them able to participate in decision making in their future is the main objective of our adolescent girls programme.” We are running this programme in 10 villages in 14 adolescent girls groups.