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Forty mothers in rural India came together to bring health and happiness to their village through an all-powerful new concept — Mothers Collective.

In the village of Korkkai in Tamil Nadu, young mother Vasuki is headed out to work in the fields. The day is like any other and her routine too — she takes her 4-year-old child to the Anganwadi or day care centre that is 2 km away in the main village. Reassured that her child will be looked after, she starts working in the fields. Two hours later, however, Vasuki was shocked to see her child, alone, walking towards the fields looking for his mother!

The year was 2016 and that was when Korkkai village woke up. Korkkai village in Thiruvannamalai district is like any other village in Tamil Nadu with livelihoods revolving predominantly around agriculture. Families are run on a daily wage basis with both parents heading for work.

Young mothers with children below 6 years of age come together as a Collective

 

The Mind of a Rural Indian Mother

“What is the best food for my child? How do I keep my child healthy? How do I keep diseases at bay? My expenses are rising, but I’m unable to go to work now. I wish I had a reliable support system”

These are the thoughts that run through the minds of a young mother in the villages of India. Like Vasuki, they rely on Government run health care facilities and daycare centres for children. However, the gap in the facilities provided are many; often these centres are not equipped with sufficient manpower, equipment and lack funding.

Korkkai village has nearly 40 young mothers such as Vasuki and her friends, who face issues of different kinds. Every day is a challenge for these women, as they depend on their daily wages. With no support facilities at home in the form of a day-care, the family income suffers. Accessing the Government run facilities such as the Anganwadi becomes a tedious and sometimes dangerous task, considering the distances. The lack of education prevents them from being aware of the schemes from the Government. Anaemia and malnutrition also abound among these women, not making life any easier.

Mothers Collective: The power of a group and the support of a helping hand

Early childhood development programmes are known to ready young children for higher education by making them familiar with the letters and the concept of interaction with others. The Government run Anganwadis provide the service of a day-care and health care centre for mothers and children. However, for villages like Korkkai, distances of these centres hinder families from accessing them easily.

A Mothers Collective meeting in progress

To address the issues of a quality support system and early childhood development, Hand in Hand India has brought out the unique concept of Mothers Collective. The initiative is carried out in collaboration with UBS Optimus Foundation Switzerland in villages across Tamil Nadu and Madhya Pradesh.

The primary objective of the Mothers Collective is to help the women of the village form their own family support system.

Extending the concept of Self Help Groups, the power of bringing together women was now brought in line with mothers of children aged between 1–6 years as well. A group of 20 young mothers, when brought together in a collective, were able to voice their requirements and get solutions as well. Each collective would work in conjunction with the Government nodal centres to look after the children. Hand in Hand India helps these women with the requisite support in the form of guidance to schemes they can avail, adult literacy classes and more.

The mothers are trained in all aspects of Early Childhood care and Education and become holistic caregivers to their children. Training is also provided in socio-economic empowerment of the collective; health and nutrition of women, basic financial literacy and skill development.

The happy mothers of Korkkai village

The Korkkai Mothers collective realised with they needed an Anganwadi in their own village and not 2km away. They solved this by demanding the local panchayat for an Anganwadi of their own, which they eventually got. The women of the collective took turns assuming different roles: the educated among them would look after the children and give them basic lessons. They also taught each other and assumed the form of adult literacy teachers.

A renovated Anganwadi brings cheer to the entire village and its womenfolk

With HiH India’s training, the Mothers Collective at Korakkai has understood how the Anganwadi is to be run and also ensure various Government schemes such as the mid-day meals reach the children. Korakkai’s women are now brimming with enthusiasm as they learn new trades such as basket-making and tailoring that will help them supplement their family income.HiH India’s regular paediatric camps have helped spot health issues on time. Anaemia and malnutrition are now on the wane in these villages.

Korkkai panchayat is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to highlighting women and children rights. The happiness quotient in this village is at its highest!

About the Mothers Collective Project:

Hand in Hand India works in the areas of health in rural India. The Mothers Collective Project has been implemented in 40 villages across Tamil Nadu and Madhya Pradesh by Hand in Hand India in partnership with UBS Optimus Foundation. Between 2015 and 2018, the project has impacted more than 4000 mothers and 2000 children, addressing key gaps such as health, breastfeeding, nutrition training and paediatric assessment.

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