About ACF

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Meet The Cow Lady, The Milk Lady, And The Hen Lady: 3 Stories Of Courageous Women Who Are Now The Driving Force In Their Families; Thanks To Education

Economic empowerment leads to social empowerment; this has never been truer than in the case of women. Research shows that when a woman has the means to earn money, she can be an able partner in decision making for the family and is more prudent than men at taking decisions that can take the family out of poverty. The stories of these three successful rural entrepreneurs showcase how families and at times entire communities, can be prosperous when you equip women with education.

The Cow Lady, Shanta Sharma: In Darlaghat, Himachal Pradesh, getting an education is not easy if you’re a woman and the situation at Shanta’s home was no different. Shanta, despite resistance from her parents, did, however, manage to study till Class 8 before being confined to the 4 walls of her home. Relegated to the role of a housewife post marriage, Shanta longed for an opportunity that would allow her to support her family economically as well.

That opportunity came in the form of a training in veterinary sciences that was being offered by ACF. Shanta enrolled herself and though she faced some hiccups, especially learning the names of medicines in English, she successfully passed the training to become a Pashu Swastya Sevika (Animal Health Worker). Today, as a PSS, she is part of an indispensable band of women who are called for all animal-related health issues, especially cows, in Darlaghat. Healthy cows imply higher milk production resulting in significant improvement in the quality of life of the villagers. And this has resulted in Shanta and her peers being looked upon with much-deserved respect, and in her successfully supporting her family with an additional income & decisions.

The Milk Lady, Hansaben Jadhav: Approximately 1600 Kms away in Sandhanidhar village of Kodinar district, Gujarat, there is another white revolution taking place and this time around, women are at the forefront of it. An initiative by the women, of the women and for the women, the Women’s Dairy Cooperative has resulted in a sea of change in the economic prosperity & perception of women. Hansaben was part of the initial group of volunteers who decided to set up the dairy in their village and she recalls the antagonism she & her peers had to face. How could a woman work and run a dairy? It was unthinkable. That didn’t deter Hansaben & the other volunteers though and against all opposition set up the dairy and encouraged women to come out of their homes and participate in the economic upheaval.

Today the Women’s Cooperative dairy is a cash cow and every woman in Sandhanidhar is a member of the dairy. All the women have bank accounts in their name to which money from the sale of milk is deposited through challans they fill and sign themselves. As for Hansaben, the quest to break misconceptions about the ability of women continues. In a society where women are encouraged not to study, she is currently pursuing her post-graduation.

The Hen Lady, Januben Jadhav: In nearby Pikhor, another hamlet in the district of Kodinar, Gujarat, if you hear a few peculiar sounds such as ah ah ah ah and ke ke ke ke, rest assured. It’s Januben going about managing her business – poultry. It’s not the only business she manages though. With a husband who’s never at home, Januben manages the entire household including the children. 
The poultry business has been a boost in the arm for Januben with much-needed income. Life was harsh, however, when there was no steady income coming from her husband and she wasn’t working. Eager to confront her circumstances, she enrolled herself at the Krishi Kendra collective where she was enlightened on the prospects of poultry farming. She now earns Rs. 3000 – 4000 monthly which suffices for her household expenses and savings.

The Pashu Swastya Sevika, Women’s Cooperative Dairy, and Krishi Kendra collective are some of the many rural development programmes that have been initiated and managed by ACF to empower women. ACF believes that economic empowerment of women leads to economic prosperity for the entire household & social empowerment of women. To enable this. ACF works with women in 22 locations & 11 states across India. You can also help ACF in this endeavor by partnering with us or at the least, sharing this story of change from Rural India

Monday, August 20, 2018

There's A Revolution Brewing In Our Villages, And It's Being Led By Sakhis

Sagunatai, Sunita & Joshila’s faces are some of the many that acquaint you with the women of rural India. Their eyes, however, reveal a missionary zeal that sets them apart. They are, in fact, 3 of the 350 plus women who have taken the onus of securing the health of their villages. Fondly called Sakhis, these women have been trained & equipped by ACF to provide first aid, maternal & neo-natal care and improve hygiene in their communities.

The going hasn’t been easy. Superstitions and age-old practices run rife that thwart any concrete effort towards ensuring quality healthcare for all. Child Births happen more at homes than in hospitals resulting in health complications for the child & the mother. Annually, around 44000 mothers die in India due to preventable pregnancy-related causes in India as per UNICEF. Every year, 6.4 lakh newborn babies never get a chance to breathe beyond their first 28 days in India. 

Open Defecation is also a cultural norm that few people would want to give up; leading to rampant cases of diarrhea and hepatitis among many other diseases. In fact, as per The Economist, 450 million Indians defecate in the open & 1 in every 10 deaths can be attributed to Open Defecation.

But the Sakhis are persistent. Slowly and steadily, more women are opening their household doors to welcome them. After all, who wishes the death of a loved one? Through their efforts, women are now opting to give birth in hospitals resulting in lower mortality rates. And that’s not all; the Sakhis are also the torch bearers of the Swachchta Doot programme that trains village children to be evangelists for personal & environmental cleanliness. The importance of hygiene in physical & mental growth is taught through games that the children play. This has resulted in villages being cleaner & conscious of practices that improve personal & community hygiene. Open defecation, earlier rampant, has reduced as villagers realize it’s relationship with disease. The Sakhis conduct regular meetings with the community to sensitize & motivate them on the need for toilets in every household.

The Sakhis are relentless in their pursuit of good health. As Joshila aptly puts it,” I will not rest till every household in my village has a toilet”. Neither will we.

ACF works with women in rural communities to improve health & sanitation & has been training women in 22 locations & 11 states across India to be the agents of change in the communities they reside. As part of this initiative, over 350 Sakhis & over 300 Swachchta Doots have been trained. As a result, over 15500 households are now covered under the Maternal & Child Care programme, 29733 toilets have been constructed & 131 villages have 100% toilet coverage. You can also help ACF in this endeavor by partnering with us or at the least, sharing this story of change.

Read more about ACF’s initiatives in health here