IN HER WORDS
SEWA Women highlight their lives and stories. Our grassroots women take on the mantle of leadership and fit well into self-selected positions of responsibility, to become advocates and grassroots champions for the women around them. It is the work and lives of our women that make the SEWA Sangathan the force it has been since 1984. Read on for a few stories from our communities.
Devanti Devi, Harazibagh, Jharkhand
Many families in Purnadih, Hazaribagh cook their meals using LPG cylinders, but, during the lockdown the fund crunch made itself felt. SEWA members shared this problem about the inability to buy gas with their aagewan, Devanti Devi.
Devanti Devi had heard that under the Ujjwala Yojana, each of them would be entitled to Rs. 806 in their bank accounts to purchase a cylinder. She shared this information with everyone and asked them to check their bank accounts. The money had been received by many of these families and they got their cylinders filled.
Rekhaben, Almora, Uttarakhand
At the peak of the lockdowns imposed in a bid to prevent the spread of Covid-19, 80 Customer Service Points (CSPs) who are financial intermediaries of formal banks, carried out cash transactions worth INR 10Cr for 25,000 customers in villages of Uttarakhand.
Rekhaben, from Almora, had started her journey as a CSP in 2019. When the lockdown was announced, Rekhaben was 7 months pregnant. Armed with a laptop, she’d walk 7 kilometres daily, to help out with immediate cash needs of 4 separate villages around hers. Serving a majorly old and poor population, she operated with empathy, and carried out cash transactions of 3 lacs INR during the lockdown. She also distributed masks and helped in ration distribution.
Batulben, Jaipur, Rajasthan
Batulben from Sanjay Nagar Basti in Rajasthan had attended school until the 8th grade. To support her family financially, Batulben had joined SEWA for training in Lac craft and stitching, and soon became a trainer for these skills. She was also determined to complete her education and with the support of her family, was pursuing her 10th grade studies from an open school.
Due to the Covid19 lockdown, Batulben’s school shut down. She realised that some families around her were unable to access ration, and she, along with her husband, collected ration from the local authorities, prepared and distributed food to 75 people in need. These included families with 6 kids and those that hadn’t eaten for 3 days straight.
Sheela Ben, Samaspur, Uttarakhand
A resident of Samaspur village in Uttarakhand, Sheelaben is one of the oldest aagewans in SEWA, and one whose energy is difficult to match. She had moved to Dehradun with her husband as a young bride, and to support their family of 7, she learned stitching, estimating her measurements as she had never received a primary education. She joined SEWA in 2012, and became an aagewan soon after.
During the lockdown, both her husband and she lost their source of income. She didn’t back away during this time of personal adversity. Sheelaben assisted 60 families around her who needed access to ration kits, by bringing it up with the Nagar Nigam Parshad. She also stitched up the scrap cloth in her home into masks and distributed them in the community.
Health and Sanitation
Rubinaben, a resident of Nahari, was in the 9th month of her second pregnancy. Since she was advised a C-section delivery, she had gotten a card made at Jana Hospital. By the time her delivery date arrived, Jana Hospital was a designated COVID hospital.
Her family suggested admission in private hospitals, three of which turned them away, and one was charging upwards of Rs. 50,000 for her delivery. After being taken to 15 hospitals, she consulted with Mehrunishaben of SEWA, who suggested going to Women’s Hospital, a Government-run facility. Rubinaben delivered a healthy baby within the next two days at Women’s Hospital.
Sangitaben, Hazaribagh, Jharkhand
The last week of June saw more and more migrant workers return to their villages from red zone cities. They were all assigned to quarantine centres for 14 days. Many wouldn’t abide, and were found roaming in their villages.
The aagewan, Sangitaben, got in touch with the ASHA worker of her village. Fights broke out when Sangitaben and Asha ben tried to intervene and ask the quarantined workers to stay put at the centre. Sangitaben, out of her wits, had to ask the village chief to intervene, which worked. The quarantined workers only agreed to stay at the quarantine centre when urged by the chief.