It was at Sahdoli, a sleepy little village in Alwar that a group of 10 young women members of the Girl Resource Centre called Umang took the responsibility of serving their community. Poonam, a fellow with Ibtada and a member of the Girl Resource Centre in her village started creating awareness on COVID 19, putting up posters and distributing home stitched masks. She realised that forming a team would mean more hands leading to an increase in the outreach and hence, included ten young women leaders of the Girls Resource Centre in her village. She started off by sharing precautionary information on COVID 19 and teaching them how to stitch masks that were to be later distributed in the village for free. The group successfully distributed 25 homemade masks in the village.
Majority of the families in the village belong to the low-income group, making them even more vulnerable and exposed to the existing systemic inequality in the society. The government schemes for the needy in Sahdoli, had only managed to reach a few families whereas many households were still struggling to survive with not enough left to eat. Post discussing the matter with the Field coordinator of Ibtada as well as the GRC leaders, the group decided to identify the needy families and distribute ration kits to them. After a brainstorming session on ways of managing money for buying the kits, the group unanimously decided to use their own savings along with some funds left from the International day of the girl child towards relief work during lockdown. The total money collected was 650 rupees. They identified 4 families that appeared to be in dire need of basic necessities, confirming it with other villagers too along with the information on schemes they had availed so far. Three families out of the chosen households belonged to single women whose husbands had passed away and the fourth belonged to a migrant daily wage labourer who had returned home due to the lockdown. It was brought to the GRC’s notice that they had so far, only received wheat. It was then decided that the collected money would be used towards providing these 4 families the basic ration kits for everyday use. Each ration kit consisted of 2 kg rice, 500 grams of Dal, 1 kg of salt, a packet of tea leaves and a packet of detergent powder.
The young women admitted that initially they were scared that no girl would come ahead and participate in the drive. They also emphasized that the solidarity they shared as a team worked out for them and made it easier to come up with solutions.
“It gave us the confidence to believe in ourselves and our potential on being active change makers in our communities”
says Anmol, a GRC leader. Sharing her experience during the distribution drive Poonam added, “When the women who were sleeping empty stomach facing dearth of supplies, handed the bag of ration, we could see hope in their eyes, smiles on their faces and blessings on their lips”. When asked about why they chose to spend their own savings in such times of financial distress, the girls added that the village had always been supportive of their endeavours, from helping with the formation of the GRC to encouraging their rallies and programmes.
“As daughters of this village it was our time to show our gratitude for all the support we had received”
The adolescent girls also added, the fact that it was their own initiative, proposed and led by them has given them a feeling of peace, happiness and positivity.
This welfare drive has not just been an act of charity for these upcoming leaders of tomorrow, this has also reinstated their faith in themselves and their ability to lead their communities on their own in the future, breaking the cycle of oppression, the chain of exploitation and the circle of poverty and hunger. It has indeed proven that when women come together, there is no mountain too high, no trouble too difficult to overcome.