In a little village called Chiklap in Budhwadi, in Maharashtra’s Raigarh district, 45-year-old woman Shalini Vilas Chafe has been leading a silent revolution. Once dismissed as “just a housewife”, Chafe has now become an inspiration for women in her village and harbours dreams to become the head of her village Panchayat someday.
Though she had always wanted to work, Shalini could not complete her education beyond Class 10. Industrious as she was, the lack of proper qualifications always kept her from getting a job. With three children in tow, Shalini felt it was unfair to put all the pressure on her husband to earn.
“Our village faces water scarcity. A decade ago, jobs were hard to get. I decided that I too can earn,” Chave tells News18.
In 2014, Shalini decided to become a community leader by joining a program by Swades Foundation, a non-profit organisation founded by Ronnie and Zarina Screwvala. Shalini soon became a member of the organisation and started receiving training from the Foundation in legal, economic, education and health matters.
“I always had the zeal for social work. But with the help of some training, I was able to transform myself to not just a social worker but a change leader. Today, I train other women and empower them through education”.
Chave today is part of several self-help groups that act as local financial institutions for women and families in need.
In 2017, she decided to take a small loan through the NGO she was working with and started a dairy business with her husband. What started as a small endeavor with two buffalos has now grown to a sizeable business. Chave and her husband today are the owners of 6 buffaloes that 45 – 50 litres of milk per day.
The couple manages to make an income of Rs 10,000 monthly.
“I can finally have my own savings and enough money to put into my children’s education,” Chave, mother of three children, tells News18. Two of her daughters are married while her young son is still studying. When asked if she wants her daughters to work as well, Chave says, “Yes, of course. All women need to learn the importance of financial independence. It not only helps families but also helps improve the economy of the whole village”.
Chave’s dairy currently employs one person who belongs to the Adivasi community. By doing so, Chave hopes to set an example for others to employ youth from SC and ST communities that often face discrimination in rural Maharashtra.
Now, Chave wants to expand her expertise to goat rearing and has even applied for goat rearing business license.
Apart from empowering her own life, Chafe has now taken up the responsibility of ensuring health and education to young women in her region. Acting as the president of a registered woman’s self-help group known as ‘Asmita Yojana’, Chave has worked on bridging period poverty in her and neighboring villages by starting a micro-business of providing sanitary napkins to young women.
“At first, I started by imparting knowledge about feminine hygiene and menstrual health. But over the years, I felt the need to provide women not just with information but actual resources,” Chave said.
Chave is one of many such ‘Swades Mitras’ who have benefited from Swades Foundation’s schemes to empower women.
The organisation’s CEO Mangesh Wange tells News18, ” Our vision was to uplift one million people out of poverty every 5 -6 years. Our initiatives have focussed on building community ownership and empower villagers to take charge of the development of their village. Now we aspire and are working to create “Dream Villages” that are clean, beautiful, healthy and self-reliant”.
In that regard, Chave and many others who work with the NGO work not only toward empowering communities through education but also by encouraging villages to stop practicing open defecation.
As part of her SHG, Chave now inspires and empowers hundreds of women in rural Maharashtra. She hopes that the government at both the central and state level take note of the potential of women in improving the economy of the region.