Working for and with women has been our topmost priority for a while now. Whether it is education, health care, livelihood, or nutrition, Smile Foundation always gives preference to women. Our Swabhiman initiatives ensure this. Here are some glimpses into our work on various aspects of a woman’s life.
Swabhiman Scholars: A Swabhiman initiative
Pinky (name changed) lives in Modgaon, Maharashtra. She stays in a kutcha house in the middle of fields with her father, a manual labourer, and her mother who works on someone else’s land. Pinky had been missing from the session organized for the Smile Swabhiman Scholars. Our team enquired a little and got to know that she has not been attending school for some time now.
The Swabhiman team visited her home to see if everything was quite alright. They found a very shy and scared young girl who was hesitant to reveal why she was not going to school. The Swabhiman scholarship fund could easily cover her school fees, about Rs 100 per month, and other educational expenses. When Pinky finally felt comfortable with the visitors at her home, she revealed that she had developed appendicitis and her family had used the Swabhiman scholarship fund to pay for her surgery. She stopped going to school as she had exhausted the fund.
When our team checked, they discovered that there was some money still left in the account, and the next round of funds was also due to come any day. This proved to be a huge relief for Pinky. She could once again dream of going to school. Since that day, she has been going to school regularly. Pinky is trying to make up for the lost time by working as hard as she can.
An entrepreneur, a source of inspiration for other women
Smile Foundation started working with Ishwati in 2020. She reached out to us through the Swabhiman project coordinator in her area, Juna Sawarpada village in Palgarh district of Maharashtra. Ishwati always had a leaning towards farming. Recognising this, we provided her with the initial raw materials and equipment she needed to set up a farming unit. These include seeds, water pump and pipeline.
Ishwati is now a self-sufficient farmer. With the help of Smile, she was able to grow the crop and earned around Rs. 10,000 by selling the produce in the market. Before this, she used to work as a tailor in the village. Since she got into farming, it has helped her get an additional means of income.
All six members of Ishwati’s family work in the field, their work divided throughout the year. Her mother, Laxmi, in particular loves working the field. Ishwati is happy that she has been able to expand her means of income even during the pandemic and support her family at such a difficult time. Ishwati’s story is one of inspiration for millions of others. While most people are turning towards cities to find employment, Ishwati found something productive and fulfilling in her own village.
Swabhiman has nurtured many such women entrepreneurs.
Celebrating motherhood, enhancing nutrition
Smile Foundation’s Swabhiman team held a celebration of forthcoming motherhood in Sangrur.
A community-based event called godh-bharai, marking the seventh month of pregnancy, is celebrated at Anganwadi centres on the 14th of every month. Under our “Nutrition Enhancement Programme” in Sangrur, we have this Swabhiman initiative with the Anganwadi workers and with the beneficiaries (pregnant women) at their respective centres.
In December 2021, the celebration was conducted at 5 centres of the project intervention area. There were a total of 9 pregnant women in their 3rd trimester of pregnancy. The villages covered were Kalajhar, Lakhewal, Bharro-2, Shahpur, and Balad-3. The women were provided with necessary information on birth preparedness, early initiation of breast feeding, importance of colostrums, and importance of IFA and calcium supplementation intake. It also included discussion on inclusion of diverse foods in diet, adequate rest, family’s support during and after pregnancy, sensitization of family members and care-givers. The women were provided with a basket of fruits and vegetables. Food items such as jaggery, roasted black-gram, and groundnuts that are rich in iron and protein are also being provided. The products from the community kitchen gardens (another activity under our Nutrition Enhancement Programme) such as spinach, fenugreek, turnip, that are seasonal and locally available, were also given to the pregnant women to mark the importance of inclusion of diverse food groups in their regular diet. The sessions help to address the concerns of pregnant women and also prepare them emotionally and mentally for the delivery.