The will that paves the way
Saroj with her children
“I do not mind if my boys do not get higher education but I want my girls to be educated and well qualified”, Saroj Kumari shares her thought with conviction. 32-year-old Saroj, mother of 2 young girls and 2 young boys lives in Rasoolpanah village of Fatehpur Block in Barabanki district, Uttar Pradesh. She comes across as someone with strong leadership abilities.
Saroj started her journey with TLMTI in 2011 and attended adult literacy classes conducted by the Women Empowerment project. She joined one of the self-help groups (SHGs) started by the project in her village. In 2014, when the SHGs were federated at the Block level, Saroj was elected as its president. Since the federation was small, Saroj and other members of the federation went from village to village (within 7-8km radius) and facilitated the formation of new SHGs. Now, over 34 SHGs are part of the Federation.
There are 9 SHGs operational in her village. Very influential, the SHGs have a strong hold on the village administration. With the support of the SHG members, a Gram Pradhan was elected in the village. For village-level issues, the community turns to the SHGs for advocacy. For meetings outside the village, the Gram Pradhan provides vehicles to the SHG members.
Saroj is also a member of the Crisis Response Wing (CRW) and took a lead in helping three women who faced dowry and domestic violence. When there are serious problems in the village, she dials ‘100’ and gets instant Police help. In 2017, she received training on domestic violence and dowry-related laws from Police, along with other members of the CRW.
Saroj explains “I have learnt a lot from my association with TLMTI. I got to know about cleanliness, child labour, gender and domestic violence, hygiene and sanitation; education of girl child, and most importantly, saving for a rainy day.”
There have been a lot of changes in the village because of the advocacy done by SHGs: Roads are clean, and new roads have been built. Women have started getting out from their houses – once unimaginable! Girls started attending school. Hygiene practices have improved and families are financially better off because they are able to take a loan from SHGs for livelihood and income generation purpose.
Every year, Saroj takes a loan of Rs 5,000 from the SHG for manure and pesticides and that has resulted in better profits from farming. She wants to be active in the village administration so that she can influence the policies that govern the village. And for this, she aspires to become the Gram Pradhan one day.
“I have a dream for my village. All women here should be educated and be financially independent. They should be empowered to live with dignity,” says an ambitious Saroj.