It seems almost presumptuous to call Beed Pinarpura in North India a village. With a collection of 17 homes, most of them little more than rude huts, it could at best be called a hamlet, and the entire population of the village could fit into one frame.
Beed Pinarpura is a place forgotten by progress. A place where there is no electricity, and therefore none of the appliances that most of us take for granted. A place where you have to walk a couple of miles to get clean drinking water, and where the nearest primary school is four miles away. It is a place where the people are no better off than they must have been a century ago. Where livestock and farming are the the only livelihood options- each barely sufficient to keep people out of poverty.
But when you enter the village, it is not the poverty or the living conditions of the people that strikes you. What you first notice when you enter Beed Pinarpura is the absense of men. When the population of Beed Pinarpura gathers in the village square women outnumber men almost two to one. In a nation known for its heavily distorted sex ratio, it is strange- does the village really produce so many more girls than boys?
Not really. When you look at the very old, or the very young, you find a reasonably equitable gender balance. But while teenage girls and young women make up almost half the population, their male counterparts are conspicuous by their absence. All the able-bodied youth and men have migrated to the nearby towns and cities in search of work, leaving behind a village populated almost entirely by women!
And what an articulate bunch of women they were!
There was the 17-year-old girl who had been forced to drop out of school in Grade 8 to take care of the family, because her mother fell ill. She had a better grasp of the problems facing her village than you would expect from someone her age. She listed out the things that would get bring prosperity to the village – a one-room school so the younger children could all attain basic literacy, water pumps so the women did not have to trudge long distances for water and could use the time to do something more productive, better roads to improve connectivity thereby enabling the village to trade better and access to primary healthcare. Few planners can nail down solutions as well as she could.
“What is your deepest desire?” she was asked.
The answer came without a any hesitation- “I want to continue my studies, and do something that improves the quality of life in the village.”
“How will completing your education help you do something for your village?”
“Who will listen to me now?”, she asked. “Today I am just an uneducated village girl. But if I am better educated, even the government officials will have to listen to me.”
She clearly knew what she was talking about. And she was not the only one.
There was the grandmother of indeterminate age who rallied her friends together to form an Emergency Fund. The women had collectively agreed to contribute Rs. 100 ($2.50) a month to the Fund, which they would dig into in case of a medical emergency, to fund small community-led projects, or to meet any other contingency expenses. The lady didn’t need much prodding to stand up and explain why the women had decided to create the Fund. “There is no way we can predict when we will need money”, she said from behind her veil. “We try to help each other out when we can, but quite often when one of my sisters needs money, none of us have any to spare. This way, we each put away a little bit when we can, and we all benefit.” Her face may have been covered, but her hands conveyed all the passion that she felt.
Had she heard stories about the Microfinance Revolution? Would she consider using the money to start a small business, and augment her family income. She was not interested in any of it. She had mooted the idea of the Fund to solve a specific need, and was not going to be distracted by ideas that did not fit into her scheme of things. Maybe at a later date, she may consider registering her group of women as a Self Help Group and seeking a microfinance loan, but not right now.
She is illiterate. What is her stand on education? Would she encourage her daughters to go to school? Her daughters were all married with children of their own. But she would want her grand-daughters to study, because while boys fritter away their earnings, girls give back to the community.
Across the developing world, it is girls and women who are at the forefront of change. Recognizing this, SeeYourImpact.org has partnered with several charities which work exclusively with girls and women. You can promote safe birthing and healthy families in India. Or send a girl to school in India, Sierra Leone or Gautamala. Your donation can not just change a life, it can start a revolution.
What are you waiting for? Empower a Girl, Enable Lasting Change.
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