“Earlier people in the village did not know my name. Today I am known as Madam and my house is referred to as ‘Madam’s house’ by the whole village. This respect has grown from my role as a Bal Saathi with Aatapi, a children’s friend, teacher, and counsellor all rolled in one.”
Married at 16, Anita was immersed in domesticity. Two children in the early years of her marriage, a girl and a boy completed her bliss. Her children were studying in a fine private school. Life was simple but comfortable for the shy and soft spoken Anita. Her husband worked as a tailor in a city showroom and her father was a bus conductor with the State Transport.
But fate has a way of pulling the carpet under your feet. Her father-in-law’s sudden demise was a blow to the family, an emotional vacuum and a financial loss. Without her father-in-law’s income their resources were strained. The pressure of meeting the monthly expense, paying the children’s fees and keeping up their old life style was a daunting challenge. Compelled by circumstances, the doer in Anita stepped out her shadow. Not many options were open to her. She had no special skills, though a bright student she had to quit her studies after Class 10. She started working as a farm labourer. Here she came in contact with women members of a self-help group in village Kareli. Their stories of motivated her, self-help groups had helped the women help themselves.
She joined the self-help group, and was soon an active member of the group. Keen to improve her life, she asked pertinent questions, listened attentively and absorbed every concept discussed at the group and cluster meetings. Structured savings was a new concept for her, but she embraced it wholeheartedly, seeing it as a way to secure her children’s future through small but definite steps.
The Aatapi team was quick to see her dynamism, her eagerness to learn and her positive response to her family challenge. She was asked to come for an interview for the role of a Bal Saathi to run a children’s activity centre. Anita lapped up the opportunity before her. She could do what she loved, be a learner-teacher.
Anita mobilised the village children and helped Aatapi to set up a children’s centre for children in her village. She runs the centre in the morning and evenings. Under the guidance of the Aatapi team, she has divided the weekly time table to enable children to be exposed to range of co-curricular activities and also classroom revision.
During the parents meetings she informs them about their children’s progress and shares her key life learning- the importance of savings through self-help groups for better education of their children.
“I learnt the hard way, you can start early.”