Parvati Sahoo from Mugwari vilage, chhatrapur district, Madhya Pradesh has always had the zeal and determination to win against all odds. She was among the few educated women from her village, who have completed secondary education.

But married at 17 years of age her story was not different from other women of her village. Post marriage she was confined to home and did only household chores, and due to conservative nature of her in-laws was not even allowed to talk to neighbors.

Her husband worked as a tailor and his meagre income was not enough to meet the requirements of the family. Still life was moving on and she gave birth to a daughter. Post the birth of her daughter, expenses started increasing and her husband’s income was not sufficient. She wanted to do something, wanted to earn some money and help her husband, but had no option.

Mugwari village in Bada Malhera block of Chhatrapur district is one of the early intervention villages taken under Madhya Pradesh Nutrition Project (MPNP) with an aim to reduce malnutrition and undernutrition among children of 0-5 years of age. Since Parvati was educated till 12th standard and was willing to work, she was selected as Nutrition Volunteer of the village. Though she faced a lot of opposition from her in-laws, but her husband supported her this time and she could work with CARE.

Initially, during the trainings her husband used to accompany her. Pravati was a quick learner and soon she became quite popular among the women of her village, as she was always ready to help and counsel them.

Later, considering her popularity and determination, the women also advised her to contest the Panchayat member seat reserved for women. In 2014 Panchayat elections (local self government), she contested and got highest votes among the four contestants. She was elected as the Panchayat Representative (Panch) of Mugwari village, a great achievement for the woman who had come out of veils by sheer grit and determination.

She started participating in Panchayat meetings and has put forward the problems of her village strongly during these meetings. She has also helped the women to participate in Gram Sabha meetings and to voice their opinions. At the age of just 23 years, Parvati is now a role model for all the women of her village. She is aspiring now to contest the elections of Sarpanch (headman) in next Panchayat elections.

A confident and smiling Parvati says, “CARE India has shown me the way to realize my dreams, and now I wish to help other women to come forward”.

Shivani Singh