My dreams of becoming a PSI shattered. Some years later, a day before the final exam of 12th standard, I went into labour and gave birth to my daughter - Laxmi Waghmare
“I was married off to my maternal uncle when I was just 9 years old. I was forced to drop out of school in 9th standard because I started menstruating. My dreams of
becoming a PSI shattered. Some years later, a day before the final exam of 12th standard, I went into labour and gave birth to my daughter. I couldn’t give the exam and I already was a new adolescent mother, surviving amidst poverty. As I turned 16, the struggle deepened when my husband developed an addiction to alcohol, like the many other men in the community. But then something changed.
In 1999, I got the opportunity to work as an Asha worker. I earned a salary Rs.300 per month, which went entirely towards supporting my family of 5. Even then, as I struggled to make ends meet, I did not find the emotional support I needed from my partner. Instead, I continued to be harassed by members of the family. At this time, I initiated a Bacchat Gat in my village that would enable other women like me to achieve financial independence, or form some kind of economic and social security. Through this Bacchat Gat, I was able to help some of these women secure loans to start their own businesses. The frontline health work and networks I developed led me to participate in various local programmes that gave me experiences and greater visibility.
This is how I encountered CORO’s grassroots leadership development programme (GLDP) where I started mobilising women to take up leadership roles in local self government, organising and coordinating meetings, helping local communities resolve questions and problems around ration supplies and prohibition of alcohol.
Since 2015, I have been a core team member of CORO’s Single Women programme, in Marathwada. The association helps single women stand up to social stigma, claim their entitlements and lead an independent life. The journey from child bride to adolescent mother, survivor of abuse and abject poverty, to an advocate of women’s issues, has not been easy. Through CORO’s leadership programme, I was able to build self-esteem and confidence, understand how to mobilise people and reach the roots of a social problem. To be able to enable and empower women, hold their hand and walk along with them on the path of self-discovery, is my ultimate purpose in life.” - Laxmi Waghmare