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Power of women coming together for a cause 

ISP Mumbai Bureau 

Pancham Swayamsiddha Mahila Bachat Gat, a women-only SHG from Raigad is a prime example of women power coming together to sustain the local ecosystem. This small collective of ladies from Maharashtra is redefining what community endeavours can do to enhance the health and nature of the rural hinterlands in India.  

In recognition of the exceptional work done by the Pancham Swayamsiddha SHG,  Plan India declared it the ‘Best Self Help Group- Women’ and awarded it for its landmark achievements in an event held at the national level. The special mention in the award of the activities undertaken included the reusable and nature-friendly sanitary pads made popular by these women in their villages. It also took note of the initiative by these women to encourage the use of herbal products and start rural enterprises to make it a sustainable business model.

“They have proved to be a true pillar of support for the community by regularly engaging in child growth monitoring activities and raising awareness around stigmas like using sanitary pads. They also came together to manufacture herbal beauty products for the economic empowerment of their members. We truly applaud their efforts,” said the citation of the national level award presented to them.  

Yet another successful campaign undertaken by this SHG is to encourage the consumption of locally sourced food in their diet. These women go door to door to demonstrate that the nutritional value of local food is much higher than the food imported from other areas. They have prepared a chart of food grown in the area along with their benefits arranged seasonally. Coaching villagers to stick to local food has also helped villagers lessen their health burden and cost. 

Organic kitchen gardens and ways and means to procure natural neem based pesticide was a natural corollary of the local food movement started by these women. When villagers started eating local food, they also wanted to grow the food for themselves for their daily needs which included vegetables as well as fruits. The Pancham Swayamsiddha Mahila Bachat Gat SHG group members trained their members to make natural pesticides which do not harm nature and also procured locally suitable seeds and they incentivised the growing of organic food. They also organised local markets for the villagers to sell their surplus products and earn money. 

The most important intervention of these environment warriors was their campaign to conserve water in villages. Best practices in water governance were taught to the village community by the SHG members. The SGH group empowered the women, youth and children through drinking water interventions and organised special workshops and drives to increase the groundwater level of these villages. 

Once a drought-prone area, now these Raigad villages get sufficient safe drinking water, which has reduced water-borne diseases and ultimately reduced expenditure on health issues that are caused due to intake of contaminated water.

The Pancham Swayamsiddha Mahila Bachat Gat SHG members have proven themselves to be true support and development for the community in Raigad and have become an important change agent to protect nature with lasting impact.

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