These are the stories of three inspiring rural Indian mothers, and how they conquered difficulties to set a precedent for progress in their communities. Shobha, Manguben, and Sunitaben are breaking the barriers of prejudice and poverty, and creating opportunities for their children. They were all aided in their efforts by Milaap, a crowdfunding platform. It goes to show that an increasing number of rural women are working to orchestrate a better future for themselves and their children. And it is through recognition and support that their efforts and achievements can spiral into a lasting movement for change.
Shobha Kamble: Breaking Past Social Oppression
Shobha's poverty-stricken family in rural Balwad, Karnataka, had made her a Devadasi when she was just a girl. Shobha's fate was sealed: no one would marry her or employ her, men would exploit her. When Shobha looked into her firstborn's eyes, she resolved, "No daughter of mine will become a Devadasi, no son a labourer." She tried hard to earn an honest living, but no one would employ her. When her child fell ill, she had no choice but to resume her role as a Devadasi so she could earn enough to pay the doctor.
But she had her fourth child, Shobha had to choose. The easiest option was to make her daughter a Devadasi. It did not feel right. So Shobha set out one last time, seeking work around the countryside. She found Mahila Abhivrudhi Maththu Samrakshana Samsthe (MASS) - an organisation that trained women like her, and helped them earn back their dignity.
Shobha with her youngest daughter, proudly showing off one of her buffaloes
MASS helped her crowdfund a microloan through Milaap. She was able to buy two buffaloes and sell their milk to a cooperative. Her children now go to school and have the opportunity to forge a better future. In the past year, over 800 Devadasis have overcome exploitation and more are joining, to give their daughters a future too.
Manguben Thakor - Breaking Past Her Poverty
Manguben comes from the cow-herding Rabari community in Kutch, Gujarat. For 10 years, she ran a traditional dairy farming business, while her husband, a driver, spent a lot of time on the road. But all she could save was a measly Rs. 500 each month. When the Kutch earthquake struck, their savings--including a fund Manguben was building for the education of her three children--went towards repairing their home.
She knew her meagre income would never be enough to rebuild those savings. Determined to find a solution, Manguben went about rallying her friends. They went to the office of Prayas, an NGO that helps local women start and grow their businesses. Their modest dairy businesses did not qualify for a bank loan, so Prayas helped them raise a microloan.
Manguben performs an impromptu jig, delighted at how quickly her circumstances have improved
With her share of the loan, Manguben bought one more buffalo. The extra milk yield helped her add products like butter and ghee to her business. She now saves Rs. 2000 a month, four times more than the amount she saved at the start of the year. She keeps reinvesting a part of these savings into her business, and hopes to buy a new buffalo soon. She is all set to realise her goal of educating her children.
Sunitaben Vadecha - Breaking Past Prejudices Against Girls
In the narrow alleys of Gandhidham, Gujarat, Sunitaben has sold vegetables for eight years. "I never went to school," she says. "My parents had just enough to put a roof over our heads. As far as our community is concerned, educating girls is a complete waste of time. After all, we only have to grow up, leach a dowry off our parents and get married, have children, run our kitchens. When I turned 19, I was married off."
Sunitaben went on to have four children. "We live with my mother-in-law. My husband makes only Rs. 5000. It is not enough for four children, the two of us, and an old lady to survive. I was never allowed to step out. But I had to put my foot down. Now, my vegetable business feeds us. This is no life for my children. They must go to the best schools, have opportunities to do better."
Sunitaben and her daughter envision a brighter future for themselves
Through the non-profit Prayas, she secured a crowdfunded loan, and invested in growing her business. In a few months, she multiplied her monthly savings five times over. "I keep saving and reinvesting. At this rate, by the time my youngest reaches college, there will be enough for fees. My daughter will also be able to attend college."