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The Times of India: Sohna woman takes self-reliance model to Australian Aborigines

The Times of India: Sohna woman takes self-reliance model to Australian Aborigines

GURGAON: When Prime Minister Narendra Modi was attending the G-20 Summit in Australia, a resident of Gurgaon was busy training women from the Aboriginal community there. Meet Anita Raghav, who is just back from an 11-day Australia trip.

The 39-year-old resident of Khedla village in Sohna was invited to that country by an Australian NGO, EPIC (Empowering People in Communities), under a cultural exchange programme in recognition of her unique initiative to educate rural women about banking and how to tackle domestic violence and alcoholism.

An active member of Navjyoti foundation, she has been involved in community development for the last seven years. She was chosen for the exchange programme to showcase the model of self-reliance, as the Aboriginal community in Australia is still dependent on government allowances.

“When I spoke to women in the Aboriginal community, they themselves accepted that the government has pampered them a lot, but their conditions are deteriorating as the youths have not learnt to save money. We, therefore, showcased them how self-help groups (SHGs) work in the rural pockets of the Millennium City,” Anita told TOI.

She visited Roebourne and Karratha, where over 16,000 people from aboriginal community reside. She lived with Aboriginal families, showcased documentaries and addressed meeting with leaders of the community. She was also invited by Karratha Radio Station to share her experience on air.

A school dropout, Anita, who got married at the age of 12, came a long way from purdah (veil) to be able to voice her concern on issues such as financial security, female foeticide, alcoholism and domestic violence. She is now an entrepreneur and runs her own business of home-made spices.

“Some seven years ago, volunteers of Navjyoti Foundation, an NGO, asked me to start a self-help group in my village to help women start income generation activities. My parents-in-law were apprehensive to allow me to step out of home and work. However, my husband was very supportive and allowed me to work with the NGO,” she said.

Anita added: “We convinced over 10 women to be part of the SHG. The initiative helped women manage their savings well and they set up their own businesses within a year.”

Today, there are over 1,250 self-help groups in 30 villages of Sohna. In 2009, she received an award from World Women Summit Foundation for her work in rural management.

“The aim was to make rural women self-reliant. Anita was part of one of the first SHGs in Khedla village. With her hard work and keen interest in community development, she was able to bring so many women together. Today, not just women, but elderly and men also look up to her,” said Chandni Taneja, the director of Rural Management and Training Institute, Navjyoti Foundation.

- Published in The Times of India, November 27, 2014

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