Rukmini SashaktThese days, a repetitive “kuk kuk kuk” sound mostly welcomes the visitors as they enter Rukmini Bai’s gracefully minimal, earth-made house in Sanwadi village of Sheopur district in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh.

One may also enter the front door to find the petite 26-year-old, perched up on her hand-made elevated courtyard, making these throaty sounds, beckoning a set of recently-hatched siblings, while a big flock of chickens surrounds her, all pecking rapaciously at the feed.

“They respond to this sound and come out running,” she says with a smile as she sprinkles the rice grains.

The poultry is a very recent addition to Rukmini’s household. Till about a year ago, Rukmini’s life, like that of the most other women inhabiting this remote village in the tribal-majority Karhal block, was limited to the four walls of her house.

“Options of earning a living are extremely limited here. My husband works irregularly as a daily wage labourer, and this makes our family income very arbitrary. With a growing family, this financial unpredictability was a source of constant anxiety for all of us,” recalls the mother of two.

Sashakt project has given me a sense of confidence that I could never imagine,” she adds, with a bright smile.

Rukmini is referring to the women empowerment project being implemented in her village by the New Delhi-based development organisation Humana People to People India since early-2017, with the support of the Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI).

“Matadeen sir conducted six training sessions with us and before these, there was not a single woman in this village with a bank account,” recalls Rukmini, referring to the project field trainer in her village.

“Today all the women in my group who attended the training have a savings bank account and have enrolled into at least one of the Government insurance schemes.”

Inspired by the entrepreneurship training session, Rukmini decided to start chicken rearing at her house, and following a brief training session by a local skill development organisation – conducted under project Sashakt – she procured 40 chickens and started a new phase of her life.

“Initially, there was a lot of opposition from my family members regarding going out of the house for training, but after the first session on entrepreneurship, I was determined to start something of my own. Today, my family can see the impact of my work and I have their full support,” says a proud Rukmini.

Rukmini Sashakt

She recently sold most of the egg-laying chickens and for the first time, the family made an unprecedented profit of Rs. 9,000.

And now, having experienced running an enterprise, she wants to start a shop that provides for accessories for women of the village.

“It is a movement. Nearly 40 women of my village recently attended a training session on goat rearing, and as the word about my chickens has spread, I now have a constant influx of many women from neighbouring villages who come to me for advice,” says Rukmini.

And sure enough, as we begin to leave her house and Rukmini got back to feeding the chicken, a group of five women approach it and are greeted by the “kuk kuk” sound, now all too familiar in this neighbourhood; a sound that rings of a new-found confidence, catalysed by Project Sashakt, that is helping women in this remote, hitherto neglected part of the country, achieve their rightful place as equal participants in the development of their family and communities.

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About HPPI

Humana People to People India is a development organization registered as a not-for-profit company under section 25 of the Companies Act, 1956 as of 21st May 1998. It is a non-political, non-religious organization. Its mission is to unite with people in India in order to create development in the broadest sense through the implementation of the projects that aim at transferring knowledge, skills and capacity to individuals and communities who need assistance to come out of poverty and other dehumanizing conditions.

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