PhoolBasan Bai- The Wave of Change in Chhattisgarh
Born in Sukuldaihan, a remote village in Chhattisgarh, Phoolbasan Bai is a lady of honour, bravery and valour.
Married at the tender age of 10 years, in spite of her education drawbacks, she managed to uplift the economic status of women from the grass root level. Initially, she began working in small self help groups which helped women to collect funds and lend them a helping hand in cattle rearing schemes.
The hardships and challenges life threw towards her, added to her courage instead of breaking her. Gradually she started her own self-help groups like ‘Pragya Mahila Samooh’, ‘Kiraya Bhandar’ and ‘Bazar Theka’.
This was her first step towards social activism which was followed by establishing fair price ration shops for poor and destitute. Her remarkable contribution also includes an NGO named after Godess Durga, ‘Maan Bamleshwari Janhit Kare Samiti’ which started with 11 women and gradually grew into a huge dense tree with 19,000 women self-help groups (WSHG) and 2325 adolescent girls’ groups, with over 200,000 members.
She was sent by the government on exposure visits in order to manage micro finance initiatives to support Women’s Self Help Groups (WSHG). These groups buttressed cottage industries and were also backed by state officials. They began small scale manufacturing of household products, prepared mid-day meals at schools and gradually encouraged small savings among women, and these small savings today amplified into crores of rupees which are even given as loans to the needy. Phoolbasan’s idea was to collect a rupee or two with handful of rice grains per person and today they have engraved their names in the history by accumulating more than 17 crore rupees. This work lighted them in the eyes of NABARD and they were given a subsidy of 500 rupees per person. This bank like mechanism started by Phoolbasan gave a ray of hope to many women who dreamt of starting their own little businesses and today they can proudly call themselves the little entrepreneurs.
Gradually, the savings in ‘Maan Bamleshwari Janhit Kare Samiti’ increased to 150 million rupees and these women who were used to sleep without an ounce of grain in their stomachs began lending money to others in order to support cottage and micro industries.
It made a huge contribution in making the women of the locality economically independent and more confident by improving the living conditions in villages.
From mid-day meal schemes in schools to Polio programmes like ‘Pulse polio scheme’ the NGO works for all the possible issues people in remote villages face due to lack of resources. The NGO’s contribution also includes spreading awareness about Bal Bhoj nutrition initiative in schools and 4225 anganwadis. With administration’s support, it had also managed to stop more than 500 child marriages.
Phoolbasan ji’s contribution in making villages open defecation free is also commendable. Under her look out, about 24 villages were adopted and were made ODF (Open Defecation Free) without any governmental support.
With her strong believe in women, and their capacity to change the world Phoolbasan Bai have managed to touch nearly all the aspects of women upliftment in the remote areas of Chhattisgarh. She has contributed to the building of more than 20,000 water soak pits with the help of women, encouragement of female education, spreading awareness about importance of literacy and even water conservation like issues.
Her efforts and dedication are the reason behind the wave of change and betterment in the miserable status of women in Chhattisgarh.
She was awarded the prestigious Padma Shri award by the government of India recently, for her noteworthy contribution for the women’ status evolution and various programmes. Her list of awards also include Chhattisgarh Minimata Alankaran award for women’s empowerment, Jamnalal Bajaj award, Kannagi award for Sthree Shakti, Sadguru Gnanananda national award, Amodini award, Mini Mata Samman and Maa Bamleshwari Award’ by the District Administration three years in a row, and the Award for Women Empowerment from the Union Bank of India, Mumbai.
In 2014 she was called to inaugurate Bhartiya Mahila Bank (Raipur) branch which is also the first women bank in India and wholly a government institution working for the great cause of women upliftment.