Monday, June 26, 2017

A Role Model and a Change Maker

Pramila of Gokulgaon village

Pramila Dhirde, 45, lives in Gokulgaon – a village with population of 280 people, in Shahapur block of Thane district in Maharashtra. Most families in the village are engaged in agriculture, cultivating rice and a few vegetables. Pramila is educated up to 10th std., considered a high qualification for a woman of her age in the village. She lives with her two daughters and husband. Her husband has barely gone to school and is engaged full time in agriculture on a small plot of land he inherited from his father. Pramila works equally hard in their farm in addition to taking care of the household work. The household income of around Rs. 45000 per annum is enough to cover basic necessities including the school education of the girls.

When PF, under it's AMCHI field project introduced vermi-composting as an income generation activity in the village in March 2015, Pramila was one of the first women to enroll for the activity. As the initiative was agro-allied and did not require much travel outside the village, Pramila was keen to try. She was eager to get the additional income that it promised.

Pramila said, "Apart from the vermi-compost enterprise, I got lot of information from sessions on ante-natal and post-natal care which were being conducted in my village. I make good use of the information. I share this with other women of the village. I am able to talk to the doctors at PHC and RH very well. This has increased my confidence further."

Pramila convinced her sister-in-law to have the delivery done in the government hospital instead of private nursing home. She accompanied her to the hospital alone and had her delivery done. As soon as she notices any pregnant woman in the community or family, she ensures that her registration is done with the ANM / Anganwadi Centre.

Pramila and her group mates were trained by the AMCHI team in production and marketing of vermi-compost.  The group not only learned the skills quickly but also took various initiatives to develop the enterprise.Pramila along with the group members printed a pamphlet describing the benefits of the manure. They packed 5 kg bags of manure for distribution as sample to farmers. With this investment the members went around the village and met farmers and farmhouse-owners. The farmers were appreciative of the benefits of the manure as well as the effort made by the women. 

Pramila (left) working in her vermi compost unit
Pramila and her partners did not stop at that but regularly followed up with the farmers who had shown interest. The communication skills learnt in the training sessions came handy to them. The group also made a tie-up with a nearby buffalo-owner who steadily supplied them with good quality animal dung at reasonable price. The group thus established links in the market as well as for obtaining raw material.

The effort paid off and the sale increased gradually. The group made a good profit in the second year of the enterprise. Pramila got around Rs.10000 in the year and was very happy to support her younger daughter’s higher education and elder daughter’s marriage. Besides having the purchasing power Pramila now commands respect of her immediate and extended family. She is respected in the community too as she is a member of the first group of women to have a successful business.

Going beyond what was taught in the training sessions, the group now plans to increase their production by increasing the number of earthworms in the pits. They are developing clients outside Shahapur who would pick up the manure regularly. They are targeting farm houses of Murbad taluka. They wish to sell manure under their brand name “Sanjivani” – the life-giver. All the group members have been able to garner the support of their husband as well to give boost to the production and sale.

Pramila explains benefits of vermi-wash
Like Pramila there are around 175 women across 24 groups in different villages of Shahapur who enjoy the small financial freedom the enterprise has given them. For the first time in their lives they are getting money for their work. They are enjoying the mobility and enhanced social interactions too which the enterprise brings along. Women feel confident and hopeful of achieving much more. They wish to do something for the development of their community. They are being role models for so many girls and women across villages.

Written by Ms. Meenal Gandhe, Programme Manager, AMCHI