Empowering rural women to provide health services

The Swayam Shikshan Prayog’s Arogya Sakshi programme trains landless women to provide basic health services at affordable prices



Can a Mobile Tablet Become Your Neighbourhood Doctor? Let These Rural Women Show You How!

Arogya Sakhis delivering Preventive Health Services in rural Maharashtra 

Laxmi Pedsinge, member of the MFI - SSK’s article in Daily Sakal newspaper 19th July, 2015.


Saving lives

By FREEPRESS Journal dated July 12, 2015

World Population Day

World Population Day: How class, caste, gender make women more vulnerable in disaster situations. This year’s theme ‘Vulnerable populations in Emergencies: Protecting a woman’s life is a priority in any circumstance at all times’ focuses on challenges of women population at the time of disasters. Kanchan Srivastava from dna spoke to three women who worked in association with Swayam Shikshan Prayog from Latur and Osmanabad to understand how disasters impact the life of women:
Saturday, 11 July 2015 - 8:05am IST | Agency: dna
Kanchan Srivastava

She lost hubby in quake, thrown out by in-laws Sunita Madole (40), Ambulga, Latur

Sunita was barely 18 and a mother of a two-month old baby when quake struck her village Chincholi of Latur 22 years ago. Chincholi is very close to the worst-affected Killari. The house collapsed killing her husband. Sunita and her daughter were rescued from the rumbles after many hours.

As soon as the government offered Rs2 lakh compensation, she was expelled from her marital home. A heartbroken young widow with an infant in her arms couldn’t fight for her rights and came back to her parental home in Ambuja village of Latur. “I didn’t have resources to get my right. My parents had a small laundry. I joined them,” says Sunita who started a new journey.

Poverty forced her to look for other options for income and she joined a tailoring class and later took loan to buy a sewing machine. “Tailoring helped me stand on my feet but earning was meagre. I could survive only because of the support of my parents and brothers. But things are improving now,” says Sunita whose daughter Arti is now a school teacher.

‘Muslim women suffered more’
Sharifa Nawaz Saiyad (40), Lohara, Osmanabad

When quake destroyed several homes in her village Lohara, Sharifa was barely 18 and a mother of three kids. She had never spoken to men outside the family.

“Life under the temporary shelter was no less than hell. There were so many men around. I had to do all chores with a burqa on. Attending nature’s call and feeding the children were an embarrassment,” says Sharifa.

“Muslim women were suffering more due to the purdah custom, early marriage, more kids and other restrictions. Men had other ways to distract themselves from the suffering, but women as caregivers suffered more.”

She told her then sarpanch husband that she would work with affected women who needed support. After sometime, she told she would no longer wear burqa as it affects efficiency. “This was a huge shock for the namazi family. But I was firm. Men in the family opposed but the women supported me,” says Sharifa, who ensured all social schemes and civic facilities come to her village.

Sharifa is now a gram panchayat member. “Muslims prefer to marry girls at the age of 14-15. I married off my daughter at the age of 22. She is in BA final,” says Sharifa with pride.

‘Poverty forced many girls to flesh trade’
Nirmala More, (43), Nilegoan Tanda, Osmanabad

Nirmala was doing odd-jobs like cleaning rice for Rs5 a day since the age of 9 when she lost her father. At the time of the quake, she 21 and was earning Rs15 a day. Her house had collapsed three weeks later.

She decided to join the rehabilitation and reconstruction work in the nearby village of Nuldurg. “Our loss was nothing compared to people of Nuldurg,” says Nirmala who in association with the Swayam Shikshan Prayog worked nearly for four years offering mental and other support to affected women, helping them establish self-help groups and open small shops, rear hen and goats.

“I couldn’t marry due to poverty,” says Nirmala. Landless Nirmala dedicated herself to social work, leased 140 acre land with other women to do farming and later got elected to the gram panchayat.

“However, many girls from the affected areas were pushed into flesh trade and dance bars. The families never reported this to police fearing backlash and welfare of other children,” says Nirmala with a choked throat.


Member Spotlight
06/07/2015 Sakhi Unique Rural Enterprise

Sakhi Unique Rural Enterprise is a thriving network of Village Level Entrepreneurs(VLE) or Sakhis as they are better known that specializes in rural distribution of clean energy products. Started by Prema Gopalan of SSP, SURE now has over a 1000 Sakhis running their own small business and improving both their qualities of life as well as their neighbours by enhancing access to clean, modern energy. We spoke to CEO Dhananjay Abhang about SURE’s inspiring work. To know more about SURE, please visit:

Can you tell us a little about the genesis of SURE?

Established in 2009, SURE’s mission is to empower rural women to overcome poverty and promote the adoption of green technology at the base of the pyramid (BoP). SURE has a comprehensive understanding of last mile distribution networks and rural micro-businesses to recruit, train and support local female entrepreneurs to sell green technology products. These entrepreneurs, known as Sakhis, constitute a network of individual micro-enterprises and provide clean technology access to underserved BoP customers. SURE’s product portfolio focuses on those items that can address the unique needs of people living in rural areas. Main products include clean cookstoves, solar products for home lighting, water heaters, water purifiers, readymade cement toilets and other necessary household products. In this way, SURE improves access to clean energy and water sources while building the capacity and skill sets of women to improve community development.


What is the business model you follow?

SURE partners with different corporate concerns to source clean energy products and sells them through its network of sakhis. The product sale profit is split on an equal basis between SURE and the individual sakhi.

How do you recruit and handhold the Sakhis to do their work?

An important criterion in the selection of a Sakhi is whether she already owns a business or is part of a family business. This is done in order to decrease the rate of attrition by Sakhis in the program and reduce training costs. These women have already proven their expertise in running a business and have exhibited an entrepreneurial mindset. Thus SURE believes they will have a greater chance of becoming a successful Sakhi. Once a Sakhi has gone through SURE’s formal training program, she is assigned three villages to sell SURE products. One of these villages is her home village, while the other two villages are in close proximity to her home village. In order to help support the new Sakhi’s sales efforts, SURE demonstrates products for local community members. These demonstrations are supported by the Sakhi’s supervisor. During her initial weeks as a Sakhi, her supervisor formally checks in periodically and follows her during early sales rounds. After the initial three week period, the supervisor formally checks in once a week.

Can you tell us about SURE’s experience in selling these clean energy products?

SURE started with the sales and promotion of the Oorja smokeless stove along with British Petroleum (BP). We sold close to 1,00,000 stoves along with the fuel pellets used in Oorja stove but since the domestic LPG market is subsidized by government, it was very difficult to sell pellets at a competitive price. BP decided to increase the price of pellets which affected sales which started decreasing gradually. SURE started facing problems in terms of its sustainability since Oorja was the only product.


How has the work of SURE evolved over the years. What are the highlights?

SURE started searching for other clean energy and sanitation products after this experience with Oorja cookstoves. SURE evolved as a last mile distribution network and partnered successfully with different corporates like d-light for selling solar products, Eureka Forbes to sell water filters and set up community water filter plants. SURE got support from USAID for promoting clean energy products in rural markets. Through this program, we successfully recruited 1000 Sakhis in Maharashtra and Bihar.


What are SURE’s plans for the future?

SURE plans to expand its network of Sakhis to build a scalable model and add more products to its basket to help Sakhis earn more income.


Finally, what role do you expect CLEAN to play in the work you are undertaking?

There are many companies, especially start ups, who are trying develop new products and tie up with organizations like us to launch their product but it is very difficult to ensure the product quality. If CLEAN can launch an initiative to ensure product quality or ask manufacturers to take certification from CLEAN to ensure quality, it will be easy for us to go ahead and launch the product.

How 1,000 rural women entrepreneurs in Marathwada are creating a green economy?

Article on `The News Minute’ dated April 25, 2015