Journalists rarely shift out of their profession, but early in her career, Aarti Arun Ganacharya was bitten by the bug to do something for the poor and socially challenged, and she started her NGO
We take a path to reach a planned destination but sometimes we reach somewhere else. Sometimes the destination we reach by deviation is better, satisfactory and more fulfilling than we had decided for ourselves. Aarti Arun Ganacharya’s story somehow suits the above line. She was a journalist working with a newspaper. To do her stories, everyday she had to meet many people belonging to all sections of society. She came across many families while dong her work. She came to know their problems on the ground level. She found whatever the family goes through the woman suffers the most. “Every family had their own problem, but at the basic level it was money. If a woman wants to hold a strong position she needs to be financial independent. There were plenty of problems regarding their health, security and physical sexual and psychological violence. For young girls along with others, education was a big issue,” says Aarti.
Aarti was busy with her work but her mind was always occupied with the problems of poor people. She used to keep thinking about solutions to their problems. Initially, she used to keep sending these women to different NGOs according to their needs. Later on, she started working along those women with the help of NGOs but the result was not satisfactory. So, she decided to have an organisation of her own. It was 2006 when she started her own organisation with an aim of ‘an NGO for the women, of the women and by the women’.
Not Just Vocational
She started Mahila Shakti Pratishthan with vocational training. She started it with one programme but this included a lot in it. Aarti says: “I experienced a lot while working with different organisations and it really helped me in selecting my courses. I started with one programme but it was well planned and rightly designed. When I was designing it I had lots of things in my mind. I had to cater to women of all age groups and of all kinds of socio-economic status.
I knew it well, that if these women are given something of their interest, then alone they will learn efficiently and will grow their talents and deliver the goods.” Under her vocational training programme, she kept subjects like Journalism, Personality Development, Spoken English, Book Keeping & Accounting, Fashion Designing, Beauty Parlour, Soft Toys, Painting, Weaving, Handicrafts, Jwellery Making, Photography, Machine and Hand Embroidery, Candle and Agarbatti making, Light and Classical Music. She started it with large variety of personal training.
She started her vocational training with just 150 students and now the figure has reached up to 12,000. Rohini Kulkarni was one of her first students who took spoken English as her subject. Now she is working as a teacher. “In my family women’s education was not taken seriously. Since childhood I had an urge to study further and lead my life independently. Although I was good at reading and writing English but speaking English was difficult for me. So I joined here for the Spoken English course. After completing this course I joined a school. Now it’s more than six years since I am educating kids. Apart from financial independence I get job satisfaction too,” says Rohini.
Ariti told SSB , “Rohini is not the only one, lots of girls have got benefitted from here. Each girl has a different success story. Ulka Mokas is another girl. She opted for Journalism and now after working with different media organisations, she is the local BJP spokesperson. I meet timid, shaken girls with very low confidence when they join here. Once they complete the course and get into jobs, look at the confidence on their faces. They turn into strong, ambitious and confident young ladies. Their confidence inspires me to continue my journey.”
Aarti saw that students are learning from here and utilising their talents and making handicraft. But, they don’t have idea where to sell them and earn a decent livelihood. Same was the situation with tribal handicrafts. Poor people don’t even know where to sell their stuff and what should be its price. So I started working in this area too. I initiated with Identification of Tribal Crafts and Art Objects. Most of them have a linkage with the cultural heritage of tribal communities of Maharashtra. Then, I systematically and scientifically documented indigenous tribal crafts. I located the traditional tribal craft groups and identification of skilled tribal artisans. Once this documentation was done, a design was developed in the tribal crafts programme. Although the people were doing it from many generations but they needed to be do it more skillfully, so I worked on improving their skill.” Now people are skilled, but what is the use of it? So she worked out tie-ups with concerned ministries of Maharastra government as well as the Central government.
These tie-ups made her sufficient to guarantee employment for tribal women from SHG groups in craft production. “Still, providing jobs to all the trained women was not possible, so I trained them to establish their own entrepreneurship. Now, the government provides a market for these tribal artisans in important cities of the country as well as in the export market.” Aarti told SSB: “Doing all this was not at all an easy task for me. I had to fight for these people. It took lots of hard work and lots of time to reach up to here.” Mahila Shakti Pratishthan keeps organising many exhibitions in the areas of Maharashtra like Kolhapur, Sangli, Satara, Aurangabad and Nasik, etc. One artisan, Manu says, “I want to have this kind of exhibition all over India. We should get the chance to sell our products with ou own hands. So that, we could ourselves feel the happiness of the buyer. This will motivate us to do better work and can give a deeper sense of satisfaction”.
A woman in the house can take care of each and every single person in the family. It’s the general tendency of most of the women to neglect their health. This is the reason when she visits a doctor it is generally late. Aati took it as her priority. In the rural areas of Maharashta health facility is not very sound. Aarti established welfare centers for women, destitute under-privileged and socio-economically week and backward communities. These medical centers provide free check-ups, treatment and medicines. “We have tried to do a lot but still need to do much more. We are planning to have a big hospital here. In one campus, we will provide health services like pathology and histopathology, X-Ray, EEG, MRI, CT-Scan, Ultrasonography, Echo-cardiography and all.” This is the dream project of Aatri, and once it gets ready, people don’t have to go anywhere else for treatment. Mangesh from Sangli says, “It is really heart breaking if someone dies just for the lack of treatment facilities. Mahila Shakti Pratishthan has really helped a lot already. But this up coming project is of crucial importance for the healthcare of the people.” His eyes were moist when he was talking about it. Actually, Mangesh had lost his wife two years back due to blood loss. This hospital has brought a new ray of hope in his life.
Mahila Shakti Prtishthan especially works on breast cancer and ovary cancer, as well as cervical cancer, the most dreaded ailmenst for women. Actaully these are the cancer threats women face the most. Aarti say, “There are 70 million cancer cases in the world out of which seven million are detected in India. It’s a deadly threat so we concentrate more on it. We organise cancer detection camps and make women aware of its symptoms. Actually in both, whether its ovary cancer or breast cancer, generally women hesitate to talk about it. So the situation becomes dangerous.” The organisation is going to have a survey on this issue. It will cover urban, semi-urban and rural areas in and around the centre. Items in the survey are going to be age, sex, diet, education, surroundings, habits and complaints in the age group of 35 to 60 years in particular. It will have a target of 3,000-5,000 population yearly. It shall be an ongoing process and Mahila Shakti Pratishthan is planning to get involved in various other problematic areas of rural, semi-urban and urban areas.
can do miracles
How ever many programmes you make, whatever plans you have but nothing will work till people are not aware. So Mahila Shakti Prtishthan has launched a programme to make people aware of their interests. This programme has been successful. Now, women are sending their children to get educated, particularly girls, by enrolling them in formal schools. They understand equal opportunity is must for the both girls and boys. This programme has given women an opportunity to break their isolation. The newly acquired awareness has enhanced their ability to solve family problems and learn new skills. Total awareness programmes on education have provided illiterate adult women, who have been denied access to formal schooling, with a great opportunity for reading, writing, increasing awareness levels and skills training. Women have got opportunity to have a word in the family.
Awareness prohrams have played a significant role in improving the status of women within their own families. Whereas traditionally, women have little say in the family decision making, they, through participation in literacy programs, have begun to express their newly found self-belief in having say both within and without the family.
Awareness programs on health in most areas have taken up health and hygiene issues. Here we do talk about health care and nutrition. So an aware mother can have a problem free family and healthy kids. Aruna is doing all this to make this earth a better place to live in. She doesn’t want anything from anyone. She just wants to see smiles on women’s faces.
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