As part of sustainable livelihood and income generation program for village women, I have handled one innovative program. For economic and social empowerment of women and their families, we have purchased total 300 cows with support of Rotary Club of Poona North (RCPN), various other Rotary Clubs from District and DISHA organization within 2 years. We have given these cows to the 300 women beneficiaries from marginalised farmer families, from Maval Taluka and Mulshi Taluka of Pune District, Maharashtra, India as part of income generation project.
During project period, with team I have conducted more than 40 market visits in 6 cow markets within Maharashtra State, with overnight journey from 5 hours to 15 hours and stay before and after of cow purchase, in the market cities. I traveled by heavy vehicles arranged by beneficiary families such as heavy vehicles, tempo, pick up etc., with minimum 5 to maximum 25 male members from beneficiary farmer's families and with my team members.
Initially and even mid of the project, few experts and seniors from field suggested many things directly and indirectly to me that:-
- Women can not handle this type of cow project, as it is very demanding project related to time, travel, finance, expertise & leadership.
- Women can not go in cow market as all- business people, vendors, farmers, veterinary experts, government officials all are male.
- Women can not travel locally or across districts continuously and with heavy vehicles due to type of work.
It was really challenge for me, I felt bad when people demotivated me and questioned my leadership as woman. I accepted challenge and completed work before given time with support of team. I have kept my health, friends and family behind for my mission and work .
I have observed that in cow market, 90% men are handling all business. In villages, I observed that women are handling 90% of cow rearing work such as cleaning of cow and cow shed, fodder management, taking care of cows etc. Since major issues related to decision making and finance etc. are still under control of men from family.
So during village level meetings and trainings, myself and my team members, we have discussed issues such as gender, dairy management and role of men and family in social and economic empowerment of women, with all community members. In few other districts and states, women are handling all matters related to Dairy management. I am also learning and working on same.
Myself and my team worked 24x7 and completed our mission before time. After successfully completing work, again many people raised many issues regarding my work & leadership such as :-
- You worked with men only
- You are continuously travelling with men
- Your team members are men
Finally they connected all issues to my character, and questioned my integrity and commitment towards my work for social cause. My commitment is for our society, people and social cause, so I ignored them and their views, and concentrated on my work. As around 25 years I am in social field and working for women's rights and people's empowerment.
I am not against men, but i am raising my voice against patriarchy and patriarchal attitude of people. I am fighting for gender equality, justice and also advocating women's rights at all levels.
Even after facing number of challenges, I am happy and proud to be leader because I have also received lot of trust and support from many people - such as my mentor & chairman of DISHA ( Brig. R. Jatar.), my team ( Mr.Santosh Vanjari & Mr.Sandip Bidkar), my Organization trustee ( Mrs.Indu Gupta), Rotary members ( Rtn.Kumar Shingare & Rtn. Kishin Bhagwanani), vendors ( Mr. Khalil Shaikh, Mr. Akram Shaikh, Mr.Nadim Shaikh & family), veterinary experts ( Dr. Vardhaman), Rtn.Parimal Naik (Rotary Global Grant Evaluator) and farmer's families, villagers for successfully completion of project.
I have received respect, support and love from women from all villages. All these women strengthen my leadership and inspired me to work for cause. Now after completion of income generation project of 300 families, our organization have received more 3 to 4 Cow Projects, I am happy for same. Now I can reach more and more marginalised families and will create support system for them.
All women beneficiaries, also 4 women beneficiaries who visited cow market with me, CIP Fellowship team and fellows, CIP Coach - Sonal Satelkar, World Pulse team, DISHA team, my family members and friends... have given me lot of courage to express myself and encouraged my leadership to handle challenges.
Thanks to all for keeping trust on my leadership and my work for women and community empowerment.
This project was great learning opportunity for me. Cow project helped me to strengthen my capacities, knowledge and skills as leader. I am thankful to all.