Rajshree Maruti Vinherkar is a community leader from a village in Maharashtra. A mother to three daughters who lives by herself, Rajshree is an inspirational example of women empowerment in rural Maharashtra.
Sawad Gram Panchayat is located 8 km. due southeast of Mahad Block Headquarter, towards Poladpur Block. There are nearly 408 households across seven hamlets in the Gram Panchayat, one of which is led by Rajshree Maruti Vinherkar. Rajshree is a community champion, portraying the perfect example of a self-carved community leader whose leadership skills and perseverance got other women of the village mobilized to bring about a permanent change at the personal as well as the village level.
Her story becomes even more exemplary, as her husband stays outside the village to earn a livelihood and she stays in the village while taking care of the household and three daughters, and contributing her bit for the overall development and betterment of the village.
Rajshree, 41, has been a resident of this village since birth, and got married to Maruti Vinherkar, also a resident of this village, nearly 20 years ago. Her husband works at Thane with a private establishment and visits home on festive occasions only. She is mother to three daughters aged 18, 11, and 3. The eldest of her daughters is an undergraduate at a college in Mahad, while the youngest one is slated to be enrolled at the village Anganwadi centre this year.
While Maruti, Rajshree’s husband, is the primary bread winner, she helps contribute to the household income through various activities at the personal level.
The Vinherkars have two acres of land under net sown area which they primarily use to cultivate rice and moong once a year using hired labourers.
Besides this, Rajshree works as a collection agent for a private micro-savings company named ‘Atharv4u Infra & Agro Ltd.’, having its office at Dahisar, Mumbai, and leads a group of 10 women who contribute ₹100 per month to the micro-savings scheme. The women’s group plans to start a snacks business with the lump sum money they will receive on the maturity of this scheme.
Rajshree has received sewing training from Swades Foundation, through which she is able to get work that contributes to enhancing the household income. She is also an active member of the Gram Panchayat, and has been the chief protagonist in getting the piped water supply at the household level through a Swades-facilitated drinking water scheme in the village.
Her story begins with the Swades team coming to the village and proposing the drinking water scheme. The technical survey was completed in May 2015. However, the Gram Panchayat was reluctant to give the ‘No Objection Certificate’, delaying the initiation of work for laying pipelines. In such times, Rajshree came forward to offer her help to try and accomplish the task.
Being a member, she wrote a letter to the Gram Panchayat, while not being sure if this would work. At her behest, the Gram Panchayat convened a special women’s only session for the Gram Sabha meeting in September 2015.
At this session, the Gram Sabha decided to issue the NOC and flag off civil works for the water scheme.
However, this again did not work, as one faction of the members was reluctant because of an overdue from individual households towards the previous water scheme initiated by the government in the past. Rajshree took this as a challenge. She escalated the matter with the Block Development Officer and officials of the Maharashtra State Electricity Board on her own. She got to know that resolving the deadlock would take at least partial payment against the overdue amount of ₹1,20,000.
Filled with new insight, she came back to the village and mobilized the women to apprise them of the situation. She organized meetings with villagers, meeting them on one-on-one basis. At the end, her efforts saw a breakthrough when they could mobilize ₹30,000 to pay against the overdue.
Taking note of her efforts, the Gram Panchayat gave its nod and issued the NOC, flagging off the civil works. Work on the water scheme completed in April 2016, and it became operational in June 2016. The villagers started getting water in their homes, which served to save a lot of their time.
Rajshree sheepishly admits that the scheme has saved her a lot of time. Now, she can take up sewing/stitching jobs and look after her children. She also utilizes her time to make papad. She has plans to expand it commercially with money her micro-savings group will receive on maturity of their scheme.
Rajshree’s story is a perfect example of how empowered women can play important roles in the progress of society.
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