NAME: Basanti Chakraborty
LOCATION: Sankrail, West Bengal
OCCUPATION: Women’s Volunteer
In 1987 child marriage was rife in rural West Bengal. But when Basanti Chakraborty heard about the impending marriage of a 15-year-old girl in her village, she took matters into her own hands. Objecting vehemently to the families involved, she spent hours trying to convince them otherwise. When the parents mobilised the entire community against her, descending on her house at midnight to confront her, she was faced with no other option. She took the matter to the police, and finally the marriage was aborted. This is how passionate Basanti is about the rights of women and she has dedicated her life to ensuring women and girls can stand on their own two feet in life.
• INCOME GENERATION - As a volunteer for the ACF Women’s Empowerment Programme, Basanti is instrumental in driving income generation training in her village – goat and poultry rearing, mushroom and vegetable cultivation, food processing – you name it, she has organised it all. And women are taking the businesses forward, and thriving.
• SKILL TRAINING - To ensure a ‘saturation approach’ and that every last woman is empowered, she mobilised women for skill training at ACF’s SEDI. Adopting a variety of mobilisation strategies, she was successful in getting over 38 women to sign up for skill training courses and pursue a livelihood.
• DOMESTIC VIOLENCE & CHILD MARRIAGE – With support from ACF she organised awareness camps on domestic violence and child marriage in her village to highlight the legal rights that women have in relation to these issues.
• MENSTRUAL HYGIENE – Working with adolescent girls, she helped promote education on menstrual hygiene and then took the programme to all village women.
• WOMEN’S FEDERATION LEADER – Basanti was unanimously elected as the Treasurer of the Women’s Federation in her area, a role which provided her with a bigger platform to impact women from seven other villages.
So committed is she, that in 2018 she took on the challenge to set up the first women’s pandal in the Durga Puja celebrations. Usually a role of the men of the village, they went in uproar to the police on the matter. But with the force of all SHG women behind her, the ladies won, and for the first time ever, the women proudly constructed their own pandal for the festival.
No matter what commitment she has at a personal or family level, Basanti sets everything aside – working day and night to realise her dream of empowering women. Basanti’s spirit is a fantastic demonstration of how, with just a little bit of support and guidance, one person truly can work magic!