Business Today - - IMPACT WOMEN - By DI­PAK MON­DAL

WHY SHE MAT­TERS Ya­dav’s NGO is help­ing over two lakh women and 13,000 self- help groups

PAANCHVI PASS and mar­ried off at the age of

10 – these are not the ideal liv­ing con­di­tions for any­one to thrive. But that has not de­terred Phool­basan Bai Ya­dav from lead­ing tens of thou­sands of women in their fight against poverty and gen­der bias. She hails from the Ra­j­nandgaon dis­trict of Ch­hat­tis­garh, a state mostly known for its rich min­eral de­posits and Maoist ac­tiv­ity. Nev­er­the­less, she is de­ter­mined to script a dif­fer­ent story for the un­der­priv­i­leged women re­signed to their fate.

Ya­dav’s jour­ney started in 2000 when her group of 11 women bid for bazaar theka, a con­tract to col­lect tax from the shops in a mar­ket. Not a job meant for women, as they were made to re­alise by the mus­cle­men of the con­trac­tors. But they re­fused to give up and won the con­tract. Tast­ing blood, Ya­dav and her team started mo­bil­is­ing other women through self­help groups (SHGs). Around two lakh women and 13,000 SHGs now op­er­ate un­der the aegis of her NGO called Maa Bam­lesh­wari Jan­hit Karya Samiti, and to­gether, they work for women’s em­ploy­ment, ed­u­ca­tion, health and san­i­ta­tion. Ya­dav also claims they had made 50 vil­lages open defe­ca­tion free much be­fore Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi’s Swachh Bharat Mis­sion took off. It is not sur­pris­ing, there­fore, that she has re­ceived sev­eral na­tional and in­ter­na­tional awards for her work, in­clud­ing the Padma Shri in 2012.

Ya­dav has done it all with­out seek­ing any fi­nan­cial help from gov­ern­ment or non-gov­ern­ment agen­cies. It is be­cause the pil­lars of her move­ment are self-sus­tain­abil­ity, self-re­spect and dis­ci­pline. “We started by con­tribut­ing ` 2 per head, per month and now have ` 40 crore, de­posited in dif­fer­ent banks,” she says. The banks pro­vide three-four times the money in loans against the amounts de­posited and the cap­i­tal is utilised for em­ploy­ment gen­er­a­tion.

“There are no banks in Ra­j­nandgaon where our SHGs do not have loan ac­counts,” says Ya­dav, adding that they have won the banks’ trust by timely re­pay­ment of loans. “If some­one does not pay on time, we levy a penalty of ` 5 or sub­ject her to pub­lic sham­ing.”

The team has set up 30 milk co-op­er­a­tives in 10 vil­lages and sell 3,000 litres of milk a day. Ya­dav dreams of cre­at­ing a ‘mini Amul’ in Ra­j­nandgaon, which is Chief Min­is­ter Ra­man Singh’s con­stituency. She is also run­ning a com­pany called Maa Bam­lesh­wari Pro­ducer that man­u­fac­tures and sells or­ganic fer­tilis­ers. More than 1,700 women are in­volved in this project and the com­pany has sold around 500 tonnes over the past two years. Other ac­tiv­i­ties in­clude rear­ing goats, cul­ti­va­tion of ele­phant foot yam and deal­ing in for­est pro­duce.

“Our women are now earn­ing ` 10,000-15,000 a month,” says Ya­dav. “It is quite heart­en­ing as we want to stop peo­ple mi­grat­ing to the cities to look for liveli­hood.”


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