Kanta Disha1“Why aren’t you marrying off your daughter yet? Do you want us to approach the Panchayat to resolve the issue?”

“Why do you need to continue her education? Do you think your daughter will be the next Prime Minister of this country?”

No sooner had Kanta Bai’s daughter completed her standard 4th studies, such questions became commonplace in Kakarda village. Good grades couldn’t save the young girl from being withdrawn from the local school in the middle of her standard 5th classes, and barely after reaching the legal age for marriage, she was wedded and sent off to her husband’s house.

Her two younger brothers – aged 10 and 13 – continue to attend school today.

These are run-of-the-mill occurrences in the villages of Karahal region in Sheopur district of the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. Entrenched social malpractices nip in the bud most progressive steps introduced in these settings, and, as is usually the case, the womenfolk bear the worst of its impacts.

“I had to succumb to the demands of our society and marry off my daughter. But, as soon as I registered in the Sashakt project and attended the first few training sessions, I resolved to challenge these norms in my own way,” recalls a stern-looking Kanta Bai, as her husband enters the house.

“It wouldn’t have been possible without his support, though,” she quickly adds, gesturing towards Ram Charan, her stern look slowly giving way to a gentle smile.

“Those were tough days,” recalls Ram Charan, joining the conversation.

“For an entire month, she was attending a silai (sewing) training at the residential Rural Self Employment Training Institute (RSETI) in Sheopur, and I had to cook for the children and self after coming back from work. But I knew all this hard work will pay off one day, and today I am proud to say that my wife is the only one in this village who stepped out of its boundary and attended this month-long training. For all these reasons and much more, we are all very thankful to the trainers of the Sashakt project for selecting our village,” adds Ram, who works as a daily wager.

Kanta Disha2

Following the training, Kanta Bai’s family income has increased by up to Rs. 6,000 per month and with augmented savings, the couple is now looking forward to a better planned future.

Kanta Bai, however, wants to go beyond and help others achieve financial freedom.

“Now that I know how to stitch garments, I want to teach it to other people interested in learning this art, so they can generate more income,” she says.

“And why just women? Even men can be good tailors. So, I am open to teaching interested men of our village as well,” she quips.

Following the Project Sashakt intervention, this newfound confidence is now quite palpable in many women of this region and is instrumental in bringing about much-needed gender parity in the communities here.  

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Humana People to People India is a development organization registered as a not-for-profit company under section 25 of the Companies Act, 1956 as of 21st May 1998. It is a non-political, non-religious organization. Its mission is to unite with people in India in order to create development in the broadest sense through the implementation of the projects that aim at transferring knowledge, skills and capacity to individuals and communities who need assistance to come out of poverty and other dehumanizing conditions.

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