Making Bapu Proud

Alcohol can be the cause of many evils. This was known by Mahatma Gandhi, as he encouraged abstinence among his followers. But it’s not an easy ideal to follow or preach.

Yet, this was achieved by the gutsy women of Bhilkeshwar in Chandrapur district, a few hours away from Gandhiji’s ashram in Gujarat. The women of this little village decided to take a firm stand against liquor after having suffered for its consequences since ages. Writes Madhavi Rajadhyaksha in this article in The Times of India:

The women first took up the cudgels against the liquor menace around six years ago. “When we’d stand in the village courtyard and chat in the evenings, we realised that our neighbours would come home drunk, eve-tease our children and even ill-treat their wives,” says Devangani Gajbhiye, explaining how the seeds of the movement were first sown. Cringing as she recalls those days, she says they were forced to act when they realised that menfolk in many households were blowing up money meant for the family’s grain and kerosene supplies on alcohol.

For the 10 women who initially formed a self-help group with the help of a local NGO called Association of Women Awareness and Rural Development (AWARD), the path to achieving their goals was not only difficult but also dangerous. Their targets were mainly the three local liquor shops on the main street, and they faced brutal retaliation. One of the protestors also lost her husband when he was stabbed to death by a local alcohol vendor. However, this did not break the resolve of these brave women. They laboured on with their cause, and it finally began to bear fruit.

Slowly the shops folded up, the policemen became more vigilant and the menfolk were forced to give up their habit. Today, 40 more women have joined the campaign, and there’s one proud achievement they all like to relate. “Nobody dares sell or drink alcohol in the village. Some villagers still go to neighbouring villages to get their quota, but can’t bring it back into our village,” they chorus. Buoyed by their success, neighbouring areas have taken a cue from the courageous women, and nearly 36 villages in the block have gone liquor-free.

As the sweet taste of victory sank in, the women formed a brigade of their own, taking on new challenges and crossing new milestones. With the backing of more voluntary organisations such as UNICEF, more self-help groups mushroomed and women began tucking away household savings, formed monitoring committees to keep a watch on the anganwadi workers and schoolteachers and even began addressing the village panchayats on safe drinking water and maternal care. Today, 80 per cent of deliveries take place in the hospital and every household has a toilet of its own. The self-help groups dole out money at lower interest rates than the local moneylender.

It is amazing how much a small group of women with no education or special skills, but a steely resolve and oodles of courage can achieve. Sticking to your cause against all odds can bring about a sea of change and positive impact on so many lives. This is a true inspiration for all of us.

Read the complete article here.

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