After lunch today with our host families in Baltar, we met with the women’s group. Laxmi, the head of the group, gathered the women so we could ask a few questions about what they get up to in light of International Women’s Day. Baltar’s Women’s Group has been running for 10 years, and they currently have 44 members; the oldest member, Sunita, is 70 years old, and the youngest member, Sabita, is 17. The group is a mixture of those who’ve grown up in Baltar and those who’ve married and settled in the village.
The group meets every second day of the month and on this day, each member contributes 50 rupees. This creates a budget from which the ladies collectively decide to buy something for the community every three months or so. The group do a lot of work to support pregnant women and struggling members of the community. For example: a donation of 7,000 rupees was given to a villager who was battling leukemia, to contribute to the cancer treatment. To further increase their budget, the women gather to sing songs that are easily recognised for collecting money. They also source money by renting out items they’ve invested in, such as a loud speaker for which they charge 1,200 rupees per day. In addition to this, a prospective member has to pay a certain amount to the committee which is calculated to be how much an individual would have donated had they joined when the group began.
As well as providing support for the wider community, the group provides comfort for it’s members at times of need – it gives them the opportunity to share each others grief following a bereavement, but also to be happy together rather than lonely. The men of the village are in favour of the group, despite it being entirely independent from them.
Within the group, they delegate roles to each other. Their leader, Laxmi, was chosen because of her knowledge, confidence and traveling experience. They also have a deputy leader to oversee the accounts, and a programme coordinator. For all important occasions and festivals, women’s groups unite from surrounding villages, having decided on a location together. For example: on International Women’s Day a gathering was held in a local school to celebrate by singing, dancing and eating. Local government officials also came, and talks were given on the achievements and progress made by women to date.
It was clear after our discussion with the group of women that they are empowered by the work they do; the women are united by the desire to help others and support one another and each of us were truly inspired.
Words: Kathy and Sarah M
12/13 March – Holi festival of colour
26 March – end of Phase 2 changeover
28 March – deploy to Phase 3: community