These women have ‘goat it’ right
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.”