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From a Docile Housewife to a Powerful Voice for Women in Her Community

When Sowmya, our Community Anchor facilitator, introduced Vani to Karpagam, her Manager, Karpagam wondered if Vani was really capable of doing her job as a community anchor. Vani seemed keen to do her job but seemed to lack confidence. Also, she did not know Kannada, the local language. She spoke Telugu and could only understand Kannada. Karpagam wondered how this docile woman will come out of her own shell and become a leader of the community. But Vani was here to surprise everyone.

It was one and half years ago that Vani underwent the Buzz training. The training was like serendipity for her as she was distraught about her own financial situation. With four children, her family’s sole income was from her husband’s job as a factory worker which always fell short of meeting their needs. One day, an ice- cream vendor showed up on the streets of their house and her four-year-old son jumped in joy and tried to coax Vani to buy him an ice-cream. It would cost her just Rs 10, but she did not even have that small an amount on her. Her son started crying and wailing. The ice-cream vendor asked ‘you don’t have ten rupees on you for your child?’. Embarrassed and pained at her own situation, Vani borrowed ten rupees from her neighbour and bought the ice-cream. “It was such a humiliating experience. I made a decision that I will change this situation”, says Vani.

She then happened to hear about the Buzz training which was coming to her village, Yediyurappa Nagara. She instantly decided that she will attend it. She came to the training and was an enthusiastic student. By the end of the training, she volunteered to become our Community Anchor, with the support of the other women.

Her inability to speak Kannada did not deter her from taking up the role of Community Anchor, which requires intensive interaction with the local women. Since we wouldn’t interfere with the choice of the women, we decided to wait and watch how Vani performs her role. When Karpagam went back to the village after three months of the training, she was amazed to see Vani. Vani was speaking fluent Kannada! She had become one of the most popular women in the community. She interacted with the women regularly, working for them, solving their problems. She coordinated to establish a cloth-bag stitching business for a group of six women. Though she didn’t earn anything out of this, she was the key person in creating a livelihood opportunity for six women like her. For someone who hardly ever stepped out of her house, Vani had brought dramatic change to her life.

As she became the ‘go-to-person’ for the women in her community, she also ensured that her financial situation improved. She started a saree selling business and ensured that she brings a good income to her family. “Only when there’s a need can we realise our own capacity”, says Vani, extremely satisfied with how her life has changed. She says that if the incident with the ice-cream vendor shook her from slumber, it is the Buzz training that helped her rise above the situations that limited her.

Vani is now an influencer in her circles. She makes sure that the voices of women like hers are heard.

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