Every day we witness the great potential of women in our work. Despite the double disadvantage of poverty and disability they overcome barriers and become independent individuals earning their families’ living.
In celebration of International Women’s Day 2016 we are pleased to share the story of Maya from India. Maya joined a cbm funded organic farming project in Uttar Pradesh and told us how she was able to meet the needs of their 3 children after her husband had passed away.
The story of Maya
Maya is 35 years old. Married at 20, she has 3 children now in their teens. Five years ago her husband, the major breadwinner, passed away. Maya had contracted polio when she was 6 years old. Although she attended school for a short time, education was not seen as a priority for a girl with a deformed leg who had great difficulty walking – her father said she should leave school and stay at home.
With her husband deceased, Maya had to find a way to raise an income to feed her children. But she faced many barriers, including only a basic level education. After years of straining her body to walk, the pain in her limbs made getting out of the house and around in the community a chore – how was she to raise an income?
Maya joined the local Disabled Persons Organisation (DPO). She met a small group of individuals facing similar difficulties who helped her to receive a tricycle. The tricycle gave her the means to get out of the house and into the community by peddling with her arms – the first step. It was also through the DPO that Maya heard about the organic farming project for persons with disabilities. She has now been successfully earning an income from being part of this project for 4 years.
Karen Jack, cbm NZ’s Programme Officer, interviewed Maya to learn about her involvement in the organic farming project. Maya was filled with joy and happiness and informed Karen that this was due to her engagement in the cbm-funded project. Prior to this she spent most of her time indoors. “I feel very confident, I am self-sufficient, and I do not require any help.”
Maya buys raw products from other organic farmers, processes them with grinding machines and sells the refined products such as turmeric powder, chilli powder, coriander powder, wheat flour and rice. To extend her client base she took a loan from her Self Help Group and purchased a stall for use at the local market. Her tricycle has been adapted to transport her stall and goods. Her loyal customers purchase regularly from her, appreciating the quality and superior taste of her organic products. Initially customers queried the higher price. Once Maya explained the benefits of organic produce and gave them samples they became regular customers. The main reasons they cite are that the products taste better and a very small amount is required to enhance the colour, aroma and flavour of the food.
I asked Maya if she has experienced any ill-feelings from other community members. She responded “Earlier they used to be against me, however, after looking at the success and self-sustainability, they are happy and appreciate me. I get positive response from people everywhere.” Apart from the sale of products meeting the needs of her family and enabling her to educate her children, Maya is grateful for the courage which being a member of the DPO has provided. Because of this strength and perseverance Maya was able to demand compensation from the Ministry of Railway for the death of her sister who was injured and killed in a train accident. Initially the police officials laughed at her request, but Maya held firm and was granted compensation. This act has further ensured her self-esteem and recognition in her community. Maya looks forward to continuing with the project knowing the benefits it brings to her and her family.
Gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls has been recognised as a precondition to achieving the UN's sustainable development goals in its 2030 agenda. This years theme “Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality” raises awareness of the importance of gender equality for the successful achievement of the sustainable development goals.
cbm is helping to make this happen by ensuring that our work gives equal opportunities for all women with disabilities. When you support cbm you are helping to give women like Maya equal opportunities for advancement in the face of poverty and disability.