Preetilata Gaikwad

“I was born in Pune and after my graduation, the zeal to work for society influenced me to do an MSW (Masters in Social Work) from the Karve Institute for Social Service, Pune University.

I joined WOTR immediately after completing my MSW in 1998. In the beginning I was given the responsibility of increasing participation of women in watershed villages through Village Development Committees, Self Help Groups etc. which involved intensive interaction with community. So, we realised that the work we were doing needed to reach non watershed villages as well. Thus, in 2002, Sampada Trust was formed to empower women mainly by enabling them to secure sustainable livelihoods.

Today ,my designation is ‘Project Manager-Women Empowerment’ in WOTR-Pune and handling women empowerment projects of WOTR and the Sampada Trust. A few years ago, I witnessed an incident in which girl children suffered due to their own family’s attitude towards them.Two new born girl children tragically lost their lives in a village of Maharashtra.

This triggered a strong urge in me to address the skewed sex ratio in villages. With the support of Dr. Marcella D’Souza, we started our ‘Save the Girl Child’ project in 2015. The project was a first of its kind where we not only worked with women but also with the whole community including men, adolescents etc. It was heartening to see the positive change in child sex ratio and changed attitude towards girls in the project villages. The most challenging phase of this project was to make women participate in the project interventions as their confidence level was very low, they were very reluctant to accept any intervention from outsiders and submissive in nature. We overcame this challenge by approaching womens’ families and making them aware of the importance of our interventions. I have come to believe that nothing is insurmountable if we are determined enough.

Due to our efforts, 55 women participated in our first programme on saving the girl child at Darewadi in Ahmednagar. There are many such instances where we can see our efforts are making differences in the lives of people. The impact of our child growth monitoring system, economic independence of women and the self-confidence in them keeps us motivated to do more for the community. When we started working with women, they were not confident enough to take up any responsibility. Now, they have the courage to stand up for themselves and also for the society. WOTR has adopted an ‘Inner Life Integration and Healing’ approach particularly for addressing this deep rooted cultural bias against women. It is an introspective process, which make individuals (women and men) reflect upon their lives, giving them clarity in thought and ability to view things from an unbiased perspective. Through Atmadarshan (inner healing and meditation), individuals in a group process get connected with the deep within, keeping rational thoughts aside, to make sound choices in life. This is the keystone of WOTR’s approach where interventions aim at a change from within. This approach is present throughout the project and every activity begins with this session. Under this initiative, we start every meeting with Atmdarshan in which women do meditation and one person narrates a story which they imagine with their eyes closed. It was started to make them understand their inner strength, power and self-realisation. We are really happy that this activity helped them in their overall development. I am looking forward to see all women as entrepreneurs, full of confidence and independent.”