Building structure, creating empowerment

After a good day in the office, it is time to see where the action is. JEEViKA, our partner in the program ‘Making Periods Normal‘, has set up strong community structures through which the S&D of SP will be possible. So, off we go to Paliganj, a stiff hour drive from Patna. Well, it would have been an hour, hadn’t someone decide to start roadwork…

While we enjoy our tea, the structured is explained. The basis is formed by 12-15 women joining together in a Self Help Group (SHG). Through savings and inter loaning women create economic independence. Next to this, in weekly meetings all topics at hand may be discussed and thus social empowerment is facilitated.

SHG’s join in Village Organizations (VO) and VO’s join in Cluster Level Federations (CLF). Every block is divided in 3 clusters. By this structure at different levels different services can be given etc. JEEViKA aims to involve as much community members as possible right from the start. Only where absolutely necessary  JEEViKA staff is positioned. As soon as a structure is mature and functioning independent, JEEViKA steps back and out.

After the theory is clear to us, we go out and meet a group of women having their weekly meeting.

These women welcome us with a song. It is the song of their SHG s, and its about how the SHG helps them in their social empowerment and economic independence.

After the song we sit down and talk… about menstruation. The men are asked to leave, so all women can feel free to talk. The conversation is open and positive. Here is this region the use of cloth is mainstream. Less than a handful uses pads and has to buy it in a village 2 km away. The price of sanitary pads is an issue. Comfort would, for most women, be a reason to buy pads if they can afford it. The main complaint about cloth is it moves, sticks and itches, sometimes even causing rash. Where health has been a top reason to buy pads in other states we have done research, here this is not mentioned as such. The women are eager to know and join in the discussion actively.

Mothers tell their daughters about menstruation, what it is and how to deal with it. The exact nature of what they tell remains unsaid, for now. We should get back to reach Patna in time. On the verge of leaving Geeta suggests door to door selling. This way it’s more private and no man has to be involved. A suggestion that encounters positive reactions.During all this, a lady behind me, part of the community, but not part of a SHG of this VO and therefore not in the circle, at times waves a paper fan to cool me down. So kind. Her little girl keeps coming closer to check on me. A bit shy when I wink at her. But at the end of the meeting, she’s sitting right next to me. ;-)

Dhanyabad to you all.