The Power of Unity - The Power of Harmony
As women throughout Bangladesh strive to fit into the patriarchal framework of the society, they are left with little voice or a position that garners respect. They have very limited opportunities to speak up their rights and have feeble control over their own life. The underprivileged parts of Northern Bangladesh are no exception and gender discrimination here is common. A society that gives little value to the role of women, dreams and aspirations are often lost in the everyday turmoil of rearing children and doing household chores.
Abdullapur Hindu Para is one such village where the women meekly follow this patriarchal trend. They are often uneducated and fenced in by the conventions of a society that does not realize their value outside the realms of the home. However, a select few from within this set of women found the conviction to rise above the norms and live a better life.
CARE’s Strengthening The Dairy Value Chain project (SDVC) started its operation in the area two years back. The project has since been helping extreme poor women harness their dairy management skills to produce quality milk and sell it in the market. Charubala-50 along with 29 other women (Few are from Muslim family) formed a group with a view to improve their current condition. This group was an assembly of women determined to live a dignified life. After a basic training program these women are now experts in dairy cattle management. They are now growing and selling improved grass, adopting balance feed for their cattle, providing proper treatment, scheduling vaccination and de-worming campaign and managing their resources more effectively for the dairy development in this area. Improved practice results to improved production and they are now producing 35 liters of milk as a whole and selling their milk to the local milk collector named Abul Kashem-41 and earning a sustainable income of around BDT 1000 individually per month. Collectively these women are contributing a good amount of milk to the market. CARE is also exploring the opportunities of linkages with private sector medicine companies and feed companies. It is now an ideal business model that is rapidly transforming the rural marketing landscapes providing women with dignified employment by increasing their income and helping the private sector companies to collect quality milk for further processing.
But this was just the beginning. Once the group was formed they began to realize the power of financial independence and decided to save some money. From the ensuing weekly group meeting they started contributing a small amount to their savings account. To organize better, they developed a committee that would look after the overall savings procedures, loan, disbursement etc. The committee leader Charubala-50 (Group leader) handles the savings register, disbursal of loans and maintains the installments and Bharati Rani-30 (Co-leader 1) is the cashier who collects the savings money and maintains the accounts and pass books of all members. In the savings register every member has an individual record of their saving and each members has a passbook for their personal record. The group has a weekly savings scheme where they save BDT (30x10) 300/week.
After six months the group started to loan this money to members with a very minimum interest for exclusive use in dairy management or doing other dairy or livestock related business. Thus some women started making and selling Urea Molasses Block (A nutritious feed for cattle), selling feed ingredients while cultivating and selling grass to improve milk production. The other women of the village were in turn benefited by using this advanced feeding technology, as their cows gave more quality milk. Nine members have taken loan from to group to use in different income generating activities.
With the help of the group savings and the dairy cattle management, most women have removed loan burdens and now save for household expenditure. Some also started new businesses, while others sought access to health services, investing in their children’s education, household nutrition and building economic assets for future income. They have truly redefined their role in the family and society, transforming themselves into the trend setters for others to follow in the community. They now enjoy greater voice and participation in society. They have proved the power of unity as collectively these women are change makers. They rose above the drudgery of everyday life to live their dream; the dream for a better tomorrow for their children, their community. These women reached out to seek support; CARE simply helped them achieve this.