“I want to help rural women be self-sufficient and live with dignity.”
Even though women work shoulder to shoulder with men in every field, they are still looked upon as second class citizens. This is especially true in rural areas. Not taking women’s issues seriously begins at home. Their problems often fall upon deaf ears. Knowing this well, Chandrakala Waghmare of Upali Pen handed over to her fellow-women the mantra of a healthy life and lessons for self-sufficiency. Because of her efforts, today, thousands of women live independently, with dignity.
Upali Pen, a village of 3500 people, is where Chandrakala Rahul Waghmare began her work. Caught between the kitchen and her children, terrible financial conditions forced Chandrakala to step out of her home and earn a living. It was at this time that she came to be associated with Swayam Shikshan Prayog. The association turned her life around. She underwent all the training that the organization provided her and gained confidence she had never known.
Chandrakala underwent the Arogya Sakhi training and began her work as a health worker for teenage girls and women. She started public awareness campaigns in her own village as well as in the surrounding villages. Apart from her chosen field of heath, she also focused on eradicating child marriage prevalent in the village.
A firm believer that women require proper nutrition to stay healthy and happy, Chandrakala encouraged women to undertake organic farming practices. The idea of Parasbag was a result of this practice. She also encouraged the practice of kitchen vegetable gardens and propagated the growing of chemical-free vegetables in the household. Thus, she moved women away from a chemical-filled diet and towards a healthy life. This initiative was so popular that a movement on Parasbag’s has begun in Upali Pen.
Chandrakala has also taken tremendous efforts to reduce the child and mother mortality rates in her village. Her efforts have also been directed towards the care to be taken during pregnancy and delivery in government hospitals. She has educated herself and have become skilled in delivering children; she can often be found at the side of those in need.
Chandrakala realized that the atrocities that women generally face are a direct result of their economic debilitation. So, she undertook the initiative of empowering women and girls. She established Self-Help Groups (SHGs) and helped women in need with loans. She also encouraged women to start small enterprises of their own. Chandrakala herself reared livestock, poultry and began a tailoring business. She then started giving tailoring classes young girls and women. But she did not stop there. She took a loan from the government to provide sewing machines to the needy.
Apart from working to improve the health of women and girls and encouraging them to start their own enterprises, Chandrakala Waghmare also made efforts to improve the overall health of the village by helping build toilets in all homes. Working closely with the Gram Panchayat, she helped the needy receive benefits of appropriate government schemes. 600 out of the 750 families in Upali Pen have finished constructing toilets in their homes. Chandrakala Waghmare’s efforts in this regard have been valuable and she is continuing her efforts so that the rest of the families also build toilets.
Chandrakala Waghmare helped establish the Ambedkar Women’s Self-Help Group, Saraswati Women’s Self-Help Group, Vaishnavi Women’s Self-Help Group, and Ramai Women’s Self-Help Group. Through these groups, she helped women receive loans for setting up small enterprises. Inspired by the success of women in these four Self-Help Groups, other women resurrected Groups that had remained non-functional. New groups are also being formed and this newfound unity among women through these Self-Help Groups is taking Upali Pen to new heights of development.