Where ‘kitty parties’ help women empower themselves

Chandrapur (Maharashtra), Feb 27 (IANS) These too are “kitty parties” but with a difference. In rural parts of water-starved Nashik district of Maharashatra, village women use them as a tool for their empowerment.

Buoyed by ideas of collective power, women in many villages in this region are redefining the concept of “kitty parties”, which in cities are mostly identified with women who have money and want fun.

In village after village in Nashik, the “kitty parties” are held, ironically, at Hindu temples, which some of these ladies were barred from entering until some years back.

Women in Khaprale, Chandrapur and Jamgaon villages of Nashik district say they have decided to take on social evils and problems and fight it out on their own but collectively.

The changes were in part initiated by an NGO in collaboration with Hindustan Coco Cola Beverages Pvt Ltd, which has a major plant in the town of Nashik.

The women collectives today are like mini banks — encouraging women to save and lending out cash to those in need.

Members of the NGO say they worked for over six months to persuade the once coy village women to come together for their own good. The tireless efforts paid off.

Over time, there has been a mini revolution in many villages.

“Now, if we face a problem, it is our responsibility to find a solution. No one can help you all the time. We have started to think on our own and help ourselves and others solve their problems,” Sindhutai Sadfule, 45, told IANS with the confidence of a woman who has finally found her voice.

These women, members of Self Help Groups (SHG), deposit Rs.100 a month in a common bank account, meticulously maintaining the details in a register. Money is lent out to villagers in need – not just to women – at a certain rate of interest.

“We have six to seven groups and each has 10-12 women. Once a request for loan comes up, we sit and decide whether or not the money is to be lent to a person,” explained Sunita Prakash, 27.

In case more than one person seeks a loan, “the money is lent keeping the priority and the importance of the work in mind. We give preference to the one who needs it the most”, added 28-year-old Meera Tadpe.

Vijaya Sabale, 40, explained the concept of village “kitty parties”.

“We arrange everything on our own. We bring food and tea and lemon juice from our homes. At times we buy sweets too, taking out some money from our collective account.”

Sabale is grateful to the village women because they financially helped her in her son’s marriage.

“I had borrowed Rs.10,000 from the group and it helped us a lot in meeting the wedding expenditure,” she said. “I returned the loan in 10 months.”

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