Smt. Bimla Devi
Smt. Bimla is the ‘Pradhan’ of the Mahila Mandal in her village. She spearheaded the formation of the group in 1992 out of her interest in doing better for the society. The group developed as the village needed a ‘Balbari’ to educate the small children. From a single balbarid to 4 Self help groups, the Mahila Mandal has led many initiatives and help a majority of the village.
Personal Development: Smt. Bimla always had interest in doing better for her community. She believes her biggest support was her husband who supported her every endeavour and gave her the courage to fight the system and people who stood in the way of her goals. She founded the Mahila Mandal so that she could gather larger support and help voice the concerns of the women of the village. Her lack of education did not stop her from pursuing her passion to help others. With the help of CORD, she quickly learned of the various responsibilities and the initiatives the group could undertake. Earlier, she used to be little intimidated of approaching the banks and government offices. However, with the support from her husband and the community, she gradually felt confident enough to approach them on her own. Her work was recognized in the community, and she had created a reputation for herself – a woman whose doors were always open to help others. Although independent, she did not shy away from taking help of her sister-in-law to write applications that were to be submitted at the various government offices. She learnt excellent stakeholder management as the Pradhan as she had to meet everyone’s expectation and even bear the anger of her own village people in case of infrastructure development. Her work for the community became widespread that the local MLA and the agricultural committee recognize her.
Development Initiatives: Since Bimla did not know how to read or write herself, she always wanted the children and the women of the village to be literates. She gave space in her own house to start the Balbari and hired a teacher from her own village to teach the kids. In 1998, she led the awareness drive for sanitation in the village. Her initiative was a success as they saw nearly 70 more toilets constructed after the drive. In the same year, she helped 4 single widows get the required pensions and worked with disabled children to get the benefits (ex. Bus pass). One of the early problems that the group faced was to help a single widow get her shop back from her brother-in-law that she had the right to. Following this, the group went on to organize Drug Rehabilitation programs and raided liquor shops. With the support of nearly 70 women with her, Smt. Bimla fought against the system that was riddled with political influences – some that even got them in trouble with their henchmen. Their strong resolve did not let them deter from their goals and they went on to address other issues of the village as well – settling legal disputes after marriage, getting handpump for drinking water, setting up yuva mandals, and organizing sanitation and cleanliness drives.