"At Phulgaon and Tulapur, villages, SI Pune Metro East (SIPME) has run a medical outreach project for several years now. It has become a centre for the village women to meet the Soroptimist doctor, not only for medical problems but for just about every other issue that they encounter. In the course of this rapport the Soroptimists have been able empower the women with a new progressive outlook.
Meet two women who are not achievers by any measure. They will not figure in success story reports. Literacy has by passed them, poverty has been at their doorsteps their lives are of struggle, deprivation and often hopelessness. But they have braved all odds to change the course of their daughters' lives. Their sacrifices have secured the future of the girls.
Ratan Sheole is a typical farm woman, so is her dismal situation. Her farm yields little and her husband hasn't had regular work for the last 24 years. She has managed to keep the home fires burning by working hard at her farm and providing for her two daughters and a son. Her one aim; to educate her daughters and change their lives. Both the girls excelled at school, working on the land in their holidays. As persevering students they received very positive support from their teachers. The elder girl went on to college in Pune city 30 miles away. Despite the many adversities, she excelled in the Hotel Management course that she was selected for, training in Singapore. Ujwala is the younger daughter who worked hard in school to get admission into a good Pune Commerce college. Here she lives in a girls hostel meant for rural women, subsisting on one meal a day. Motivated by her mother, she enrolled in a CA Degree and then CWA (Cost and Works Accountancy). Here SIPME stepped in and for its new education project will support Ujwala to complete her degree. Ratan proudly adds, "I have had several offers from good families of the village for my daughters, but my condition was that the girls would be allowed to continue studying after marriage, for which they did not agree". For an unlettered village woman this is a revolutionary thought, for SIPME a moment of satisfaction.
Ulhas Tai's life is material for a thought provoking film. At 50 years she has worn out hands and feet that have tilled a barren piece of land, but a steely determination shines from her tired eyes. Her farmer husband's first wife died leaving 3 girls and a boy, so the family remarried him to Ulhas. She did not have any children of her own, so he took another wife. In a family dispute over land he was attacked and left paralyzed. Ulhas took charge of the children, cared for him and his new wife. She was determined simply to educate the three girls and the son and give them an empowered future. Ulhas' trials and tribulations have not ended, but she has achieved her goal - All the children have been educated and hold responsible professional jobs. Most importantly the children respect her and acknowledge her contribution to their present progress. Says Ulhas, "The village community is envious of our advancement, and there are constant obstacles, but I'm sure we will marry the girls to educated boys." She adds, "I have grown up in this village and seen the selfless work the social workers and you all do here, so I have learnt to work selflessly. My greatest joy is that the girls are educated and self-sufficient. You know your Soroptimist doctor doesn't only give us medicine, even speaking and advising us is an empowering thing".
Though SIPME members have given much to the women in that community, what SIPME has received from women like Ratan and Ulhas Tai is a lesson in humility. Such lessons are priceless.