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Parwati Kanwar: Golden Talent Award winner

Amka, a small village housing community having about 100 families is one of the remotest villages of Paratapgarrh block of Alwar at a distance of 80 kms from district headquarter. The area is inhabited by Scheduled tribes, scheduled castes and other backward castes.

Since livelihoods opportunities are not sufficient in the village, most men folk migrate out and women restricted to them within their house boundary. Old days taboos and custom barred women from their involvement in financial and social development activities. Parwati Kanwar was one of them.

She is illiterate, aged 46 years, has 2 sons and 2 daughters. Her husband, Hanuman Singh fell sick few years ago and is now unable to do any physical labour. Her elder daughter is married and younger one is studying in class VIII. Her elder son works as labour in Mumbai and younger one studies in class X. She has a small piece of land that is also un-irrigated. The main breadwinner for the family is her elder son. Family monthly income was about Rs. 3000 until IBTADA, an NGO working on women empowerment and livelihood starts working in this village in 2007.

IBTADA facilitated formation of woman self help groups (SHGs) in the village. Parwati Kanwar joined one of the SHGs name Radha Krishan SHG.

After Parwati joined the SHG, with the efforts of IBTADA, she became very active in group activities. Looking at her  initiatives, the members nominated her as the leader of the SHG. Parwati was so happy by this appreciation and felt motivated and started to motivate other women in her village to join this movement. With her efforts, the number of SHGs reached to five in the village and the movement reached to a higher level in the form of federation Chetna Mahila Manch.  A federation works with SHG members of 25-30 villages.  Members of Chetna Mahila Sangh elected Parwati to chair the Manch.

After the cornerstone activities were initiated at the village, Parwati took the lead in implementing these at the field and she joined a goat rearing project. She got three goats and multiplied the herd to eight by adopting good rearing practices
under the guidance of professional from IBTADA.  Parwati says that earlier, she did not have any source of milk and now
her family gets regular milk and sometimes, she has even surplus milk to sell. Thus she is earning from goat milk after fulfilling family need of milk. She also sold two bucks at the occasion of EID for Rs. 10,000.

Parwati is extremely motivated by the activities. According to her, “We, poor people could not imagine that we would be in a position to help others. With these initiatives, thoughts of many women have totally changed”. Her group is now ready to participate in social welfare work. Now, Parwati started sending her daughter to school, who had dropped out after standard V. She says, “Girls have equal rights in the society, so why should not she go for study? I made the mistake of stopping her education, but now I want her to study and be self reliant in her life. Even I also want to study whenever there is an opportunity”.

Even though illiterate, Parwati went on to learn skills in financial literacy and became financial literacy trainer. She had provided training to 15 other SHG members. “If I have something to provide to other SHG members, why should not I do this?“,  is her approach in empowering other members of the community.

In 2010, her village faced electricity problem for about 3 months. The transformer (distribution point) had failed and the state electricity department was not responding to the request of the village. The male folk had been trying for months. Parwati mobilized all SHGs in the village and decided that they will collectively go to the department and demand to change the transformer. A team of 15 members was formed and they all went to Thanagazi, the block headquarters at about 25 kilometres. She and her group forced the officials to set the problem right in the next 10 days. This became the talk to the village and the status of SHGs was elevated not only in their own village, but in a cluster of villages. This also motivated other SHGs in the area, and this was again repeated by another SHG in Thanagazi (an adjoining location).

Parwati’s husband also supported her in doing social work. He says, “Women are now taking lead in all areas and they are doing so much good for the family and community. It is my duty to support and help her. Whenever she is out for project work, I do household chores”.

Parwati has a small one room house which is thatched. She has done repairing of her house with loan from the group. Her dream is to build one concrete room for her family. For that, she has purchased a buffalo and wants to earn well for this
purpose.  She used to sell milk worth Rs.2000 in a month.

Parwati has also grown green vegetables through kitchen gardening. She developed her land and made it more productive and now her crop production has increased more than 1.5 times. She is now able to grow enough food grains for family and fodder for buffalo. “My family now eats well and works harder”, says Parwati. She is hoping to sell the male bucks @ Rs. 12-15000 and use this amount to construct one room or buy another buffalo.

Parwati says that this change has been possible after joining the SHGs and undergoing various trainings and exposure visits. Her appetite for learning is very high and she has even visited Nepal for an exposure. She feels that poor women can lead the development processes provided they are guided and given this space.She says that her life has changed in many ways and many old taboos have been shattered. After the trainings, she has worked on family sanitation. Since she
belongs to upper caste community of Rajputs, the women are not allowed to go out. But now she has gone places within India and to Nepal. Earlier, she treated the scheduled castes as untouchables. Now she mixes with them and even eats out at their places. This centuries old taboo has been broken.

Her life has changed and there is much more to change. She has emerged as a leader and aspires to do a lot for poor women. Now, she is fully confident and says “In old days social taboos and customs hampered any move for development. That time community did not permit any meeting by women. They were strongly opposed to women signing. I myself used to feel ashamed going outside without any assistant. Gradually everything has changed. Not only women but men also consult me in important matters.”

Recently she received a Golden Talent Award” from Heifer international for her achievement for creating sustaining source of income for her family with a minimum of resources and helping other families.

Congratulations to Parwati. Truely an inpsiration for everyone.