This year I applied to World Pulse as a Community Mentor.
My application was successful and I was paired with Minakshi Birajdar from Aurangabad, India.
Minakshi is a social activist empowering women in her city of Aurangabad and its surrounding villages.
Minakshi was recently selected as a finalist in the television awards.
So proud of you!
Heartfelt Congratulations Minakshi...:)
I hope to continue encouraging Minakshi with her work and encourage her to post more of her photographs and videos about her initiatives and campaigns.
The exposure on her Facebook group would highlight her work internationally, domestically and hopefully a gateway to further funding opportunities, awards and media coverage.
Knowledge is confidence. But for millions of women in my country, knowledge remains beyond reach. The first right to information—whether about education, career, livelihood, medical care, law, or policy—always goes to the men. This is not decided by law. It is not decided by any religion or holy book. But it is how it is.
The man of the house opens the newspaper first, reads it first, gets the news and information on the world first. The woman? She is busy doing household work. It’s only when the man has left for work, and she has finished her hundreds of duties around the house, that she will have a minute to pick up the paper and look at it, provided the man has not taken it with him to the office.
It is like this where I live. Women’s lack of access to knowledge makes life especially challenging for widows who have lost their husbands to the farming crisis in my community.
People have called my region, Marathwada, a “graveyard for farmers.” In my community, every man and woman has seen a cycle of drought, loss of crops, debt, and depression. The suicides of men after losing their crops have now become a part of life. To give you an idea, in 2017, more than 800 farmers died by suicide in Marathwada.
Imagine this: a woman's husband has died. There is no food at home. There will be no food coming from the field since drought destroyed it. And in addition to everything, she has no knowledge of where she can go to look for help.
Now, ask the woman left behind how much money her husband earned. What size loan did he take? How much does it cost to buy seeds? What is the ideal price of grains and fertilizer? Ask any question and the only answer you will hear is, “I do not know. Only my husband knew.”
She has no knowledge of what alternatives she has to get a livelihood and survive. Extreme loneliness, extreme helplessness, and extreme poverty all combine together. If this is not insecurity, what is?
It is this insecurity that I am fighting today. I am trying to free all our women—especially the single women whose husbands died by suicide—by helping them find information and knowledge.
The government has policies to help farmers who are affected by drought and who have lost their crops. There are also policies for families of the farmers who have died in this situation. For example, only this year, the government launched four programs which include free, job-based skills training and a program for doing group farming.
What is missing is a plan to take this information to the widows and explain to them how to access these opportunities when they need them the most.
I have taken this on as my job for the past 18 years. As the president of the Integrated Agricultural Rural Development Organization, an organization dedicated to the welfare of women from rural communities, I organize meetings in villages with women and inform them of different opportunities that are available to them. I help them write their applications and I follow up with the government officials to move these applications along until the funds are released for these women to start a new life.
This may sound simple, but even convincing women to come to a meeting can be a big challenge. They are mourning, depressed, lonely, and frustrated with the whole world. Coming to sit and listen to someone speak is often the last thing they want to do, especially since I am not directly giving away money or aid.
So, I have to try again and again and again. But I think this is how the road to empowerment is—it is not easy; it is hard, complicated and sometimes it is frustrating. I tell myself, I started with a mission to empower those who are not empowered. It is a mission to save lives from a cycle of insecurity. It is not a mission where I can just stop. No, I have to give it all I have. I have to try till I succeed because security for a woman never comes without a good fight.
So my fight is on. I have a long way to go. Droughts and suicides are not showing any signs of ending. There is a thick darkness of insecurity. But just as new grass grows and new flowers bloom even on a burial ground, I dream of building a new world, even in this region. I dream of women who have the knowledge and the power of information to re-write their destiny and create a secure future for themselves and their loved ones.
I am grateful to Minakshi for sending me the following photographs.
Minakshi looking gorgeous in her beautiful sari
Minakshi receiving an award
Minakshi with a colleague
The industrious Minakshi looking lovely in her purple sari
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During September 2021 the World Pulse team organised a Zoom webinar inviting Mentors and Mentees to share their experiences of the Community Mentor programme.
The purpose of the midpoint check-in webinar was to share experiences of both the mentors and mentees, learn, motivate, encourage and acknowledge successes and resolve challenges.
It was lovely to be a part of the program and hear from other participants who called in from all parts of the world.
Many thanks to Jill, Manasa, Alexandra, Paula and Dawn for their support.
I am struggling to type and I felt reassured when the World Pulse team understood how difficult it was for me to type and respond to surveys and messages.
I explained how I would help Minakshi with her social media presence and hopefully create a Twitter account.
By establishing a Twitter account I hope that Minakshi and her team can upload and post videos and photographs of her current initiatives which include convincing the rural community to take the Covid 19 vaccines.
I am attaching some photographs of the webinar below.
Dawn at World Pulse
Agenda for the midpoint check in webinar
Resilience slide with Alessandra
Paula Elsten's segment
Next steps slide
Thank you for reading and I look updating this blog and celebrating the end of the programme December 2021.
Sadly due to a very painful left shoulder, I have been unable to schedule a second call with Minakshi.
I wish Minakshi all the best with her work and organisation.
I'd love to keep in contact and support her work health prevailing.
Congratulations to all the Mentors and Mentees who graduated this year.
World Pulse Community Mentor Graduation 2021
My name is Sabeena, I love fair trade chocolate, travelling and writing blogs and producing films and about the fair trade producers and artisans I visit when I'm well.
I've lived with invisible disabilities for 30 years and chronic pain for last 4.
I've tried to keep the video short because my left shoulder is very painful.
Its been frustrating explaining my invisible medical disabilities and chronic pain to individuals who couldn't care less.
I'd like to change the narrative!
Another painful month and a stressful MRI scan and multiple appointments to see my orthopaedic consultant. My left shoulder has been excruciatingly painful.
I was happy to receive my copy of Bruce Crowther's book 'Not In My Lifetime.'
I attended day one of the annual International Fair Trade Towns Conference 2021.
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