Empowering women at the grassroots level – APMSS way
Empowering women at the grassroots level – APMSS way. At Bhudera village in Medak district, about 40 women, hailing mostly from the economically underprivileged strata of society, from four nearby villages, have gathered early in the morning.
At Bhudera village in Medak district, about 40 women, hailing mostly from the economically underprivileged strata of society, from four nearby villages, have gathered early in the morning. They are taking part in the monthly cluster meeting organised by Andhra Pradesh Mahila Samatha Society (APMSS).
APMSS is an NGO working for marginalised and downtrodden women in rural areas at the grassroots level. It's part of the government’s Mahila Samakhya Programme (MSP). The core issues dealt by the APMSS are education, health, natural resource and asset-building, social and gender equity issues and women in governance.
APMSS initiated its activities in 1993 with two districts and now has 15 District Implementation Units.
All the women who gathered for the meeting are part of APMSS, belonging to its various sanghams i.e basic units into which the most marginalised women of villages are organised. Some have come with babies in their arms and young children in tow. The meeting is being coordinated by Indira, Junior Resource Person; and Sarala, Cluster Resource Person. Overseeing it are Pavanarekha, District Resource Person, District HQ, Sangareddi town, and Satya Sridevi, Consultant, Hyderabad head office.
At the meeting, one by one, each woman speaks regarding her experiences with APMSS activities. Despite little or no education and hailing from backward villages they are surprisingly well-informed about their rights and articulate their problems with confidence, reveal success stories and offer ideas and suggestions.
Some report that in their village, female school dropouts have reduced. Another woman, rocking her newborn baby on her lap, says, “Private schools are good but expensive. So we are sending our children to government schools where they also get good mid-day meals."
Another reports on efforts for a liquor-free village, “A fine has been imposed on anyone found drunk. The money gathered thus from one offender in recent times is being used for a social cause.”
Others reveal how they are working against child marriages, "We generally don’t break the alliance---we gently persuade the elders to wait till the bride and groom are old enough.”
Vaccinations, nutrition for pregnant women and newborns are also discussed. They are also advised about protection against domestic violence and sexual abuse.
This wide-ranging four-hour discussion concludes with group singing and lunch.
Prashanthi, state programme director, says, “It is tough work. These areas chosen for work are very backward and the women are either illiterate or semi-literate and are marginalised. There are vested interests who do not want to see women empowered. Sometimes we face political interference and occasionally, persistent resistance from the men in the villages. After all, ours is a patriarchal society.”
However, she is happy that “despite all these challenges, we at APMSS have achieved a great deal of what we have set out to do.”