Sharada: Leader of Leaders

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Sharada has proven to be an excellent example of a Community Women Leader from a Community Volunteer, who overcame her personal grief to become a crusader for her community’s rights. Belonging to Kondh tribe born in Jurakhaman village of Urladani Panchayat in Kalahandi district of Odisha has played a role that depicted the power of conviction and commitment.

Like others in the village, Sharada’s childhood too was marked with poverty, deprivation and all the problems associated. But her inner urge to learn could not prevent her from studying.

She was the only girl in her village who went to school which was located around four kms from her village. She had to walk alone to her school each day. But she continued her studies in spite of all the hindrance which include seeing a tiger on the road. With all her will power and effort she completed her schooling up to 10th standard. But by the time she passed her 10th standard around 16 girls from her village were attending school. At the age of 17 Sharada got married according to her community tradition. Unfortunately her husband died leaving behind Sharada and her two daughters when she was only 23 years old. 

None of these setbacks could kill her indomitable spirit – they just propelled her to fight for her community’s rights. Motivated and supported by Seba  Jagat, Sharada transformed  herself into an effective grassroots leader, mobilizing the tribal community to assert themselves and demand their rights.  As a woman is denied access to familial property and is left penniless, Sharada recognizes the importance of women’s ownership of resources like land and so  motivates tribal women  to fight for land rights.

She has also been instrumental in the setting up of Jailaitamu (a network of tribal women) which addresses these contentious issues in the villages.  Sharada  also worked towards creating awareness on issues such as health  and sanitation among women which she found is at a very primitive stage.

With all her leadership qualities she became a ward member and the Naib Sarapanch of her Panchayat. Her motto is to provide the under privileged community of her locality optimum information  about Govt schemes which would enable them  to increase their income and get better education and health service.

When Urladani was selected as a project village for Sampurna Barta program, Sharada was a Volunteer and it was her natural choice to attend different trainings, meetings as a result she soon she became an active member of different committees and district level forums.

 As time passed, with the newly acquired learning  Sharada was slowly transformed to a dynamic and an effective volunteer and community leader. She took up the challenge of changing the mindsets and behaviour of her community and has been instrumental in increasing access of of her community to Govt schemes through providing information. She has been instrumental in increasing Institutional births and child immunization, improving nutrition and health of mothers and children, ensuring access of eligible beneficiaries in different pension schemes.

Her way of counseling is really very effective because Sarada counsels benificiaries as her family members.Soon she was selected as Member of Mati o maara santan , a state level women’s network developed through this project.

Sharada’s groundbreaking work during COVID 19

What makes the project  area more vulnerable

  • Poor access to health services
  • Less infrastructural facility
  • Poverty and lack of employment facility
  • Poor sanitary condition
  • Low immunity , anemic mothers, children  and adults
  • Low awareness on COVID-19  effect and impact
  • Hard to reach area/ cut-off  area is more
  • Prone to epidemics and has a regular history of diarrohea, malaria, Typhoid and high rate of  Sickling ,TB patients.
  • Some traditional bad  practices

What Sharada has done in the period

  • Awareness for Migrant people to stay in quarantine
  • Community level awareness and sesitisation  on COVID-19 ,Hand washing etc through door to door visit ,small group training /counseling with keeping distance 
  • Social distance maintaining at shops, in ICDS service providers
  • Distribution of different IEC material developed by NHM and making people understand
  • Collaborating with  Panchayat  for complementing and supplementing health and nutrition services to the vulnerable section
  • Visiting isolation centre, counseling  support of inmates,
  • Support in cooked food preparation and distribution
  • Support in  , starting Individual work in  MGNREGS, maintaining safe distance at work site
  • Support in stopping social gatherings
  • Household awareness on hand wash and social distancing, use of mask focussing pregnant, lactating women

Sharada has proved herself not just as a leader, but as a leader of leaders, setting an example of what a seemingly hapless Adivasi woman could achieve….

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