Hindustan Times (Lucknow)

Th­ese women have ‘goat it’ right

- Richa Sri­vas­tava Sexism · Women's Health · Women's Rights · Society · Feminism · Discrimination · Human Rights · Social Movements · Uttar Pradesh · Lakhnau · Sanjeev Kumar

Some years ago, Ra­bia Begum, 57, a na­tive of a vil­lage in Bahraich was re­ferred to as ‘du­lahin’ (wife of her hus­band) or the mother of her kids, just like other vil­lage women. To­day, Ra­bia is re­spect­fully re­ferred to as ‘didi’.

Vil­lagers con­tact her ev­ery time their cat­tle fall ill and the ‘didi’ en­sures that the an­i­mal is cured at the ear­li­est. Giv­ing timely vac­ci­na­tions and med­i­ca­tion, car­ry­ing out dress­ing of wounds and of­fer­ing tips on cor­rect nutri­tion and care for cat­tle (mainly goats), Ra­bia en­joys the re­spect that any ve­teri­nary doc­tor would ex­pect to re­ceive in a vil­lage.

She is af­ter all the ‘pashu sakhi’ (friend of an­i­mals) of the vil­lage.

About 650 women of dif­fer­ent vil­lages of Ut­tar Pradesh have been trained to serve as pashu sakhis by the Goat Trust, Luc­know.

While most of th­ese women have never been to school and have no ed­u­ca­tional de­grees to their credit, the knowledge that they have about goat care is sure to take any vet by sur­prise.

Be­gin­ning from UP, the pashu sakhi ini­tia­tive has now spread to over 15 states. Nearly 3000 women have been trained as pashu sakhis so far, shared a staff mem­ber of the trust.

“We iden­tify women in vil­lages dur­ing meet­ings on goat rear­ing. It is dur­ing th­ese meet­ings that we tell them about ready­ing a nurse within the vil­lage to en­sure proper care for their goats. So, those who want to help and are out­spo­ken come out and vol­un­teer,” said San­jeev Ku­mar, manag­ing trus­tee of the Goat Trust, Luc­know.

An ori­en­ta­tion fol­lowed by a for­mal, 5-day train­ing was con­ducted. Spe­cialised train­ings are be­ing held in Luc­know too. The pashu sakhis have also been distribute­d kits and uni­forms.

“There is a lot of change that I have wit­nessed in my life. Re­spect, in­come and bet­ter liv­ing are some of them,” said a cheer­ful Seema, also a pashu sakhi from UP.

In many cases, women’s par­tic­i­pa­tion in the ini­tia­tive has led to in­crease in their con­fi­dence level and bet­ter co­op­er­a­tion from fam­ily mem­bers. “The hus­band takes his pashu sakhi wife on his bi­cy­cle to the spot where a goat has fallen ill. Men are tak­ing pride in be­ing hus­bands of such re­spectable women,” said San­jeev Ku­mar.

A pashu sakhi earns around Rs 1200-3500 per month. In ad­di­tion to pro­vid­ing medicines and tak­ing care of cat­tle, pashu sakhis are also trained to pre­pare nu­tri­tive an­i­mal food, which gen­er­ates in­come for them. “Most of the earn­ing of a pashu sakhi goes into her chil­dren’s ed­u­ca­tion,” shared Ku­mar.

He fur­ther said, “The mor­tal­ity of goats has wit­nessed a change with women par­tic­i­pat­ing in their care. It has come down by nearly 30%.”

Talk­ing about the ori­gin of the move­ment, Ku­mar shared, “In many states, small live­stock like goats is con­sid­ered women’s as­set. Per­haps, this is the sin­gle as­set where a woman en­joys own­er­ship. In eastern states, a sam­ple-based study shows that 32% poor women re­ceived goats as pa­ter­nal gifts and cared for their up­keep and main­te­nance to mul­ti­ply the live­stock. Keep­ing this in mind, we chose women to be trained as pashu sakhis.”

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