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Dhankumari with her hand woven basket

Dhankumari with her hand woven basket

It’s a particularly stormy morning, and when I arrive at Dhankumari’s home, a mother pig is giving birth. I’m fascinated by the young piglet, who at this point can neither walk nor see properly. Yet, she does not quit. She pulls herself up and around the small hut, as her small body tremors. When she reaches her mother’s torso, it takes her a while to figure out how to suckle, but she figures it out eventually. Throughout the process, Dhankumari is there, ensuring the young piglet is safe, especially when the pesky chickens keep trying to peck at her umbilical cord.

Dhankumari began the pig business once she joined the Mothers group program. Before that, she earned money washing dishes for various people. Combined with her husband’s income, and with no land to their name it wasn’t enough, and they often struggled to buy food. Today, her two pigs provide a steady source of income. She hasn’t yet needed to take a loan from the microcredit program. Instead, she has learnt how to save money from it, and setup a business.

Dhankumari has four children, two boys and two girls. Both her daughters are supported by IWEN, and I see one of them as she’s preparing to go to school. She has a bicycle from IWEN that she uses to get to school. When the girls aren’t in school, their father uses the cycle to get a special type of clay to make pots (pictured below).

The newly born piglet, suckling its mother who is still in labour

The newly born piglet, suckling its mother who is still in labour

We then become trapped by the thunderous monsoon rains, and retreat inside her home. She picks up each of the baby chicks, and also brings inside the ducks and chickens who are frightened of the thunder and lightning. Inside, is dark and quiet.

From the discussions in the group, Dhankumari has gained insight on different forms of family planning measures available such as Depo, IUDs, and contraceptive pills. Both her daughter, and daughter-in-law are making use of these by attending counselling sessions provided to the young women. She has also learned the importance of not marrying girls off at a young age. In her own words, a woman’s health isn’t good if she has babies early. She has a 22-year-old daughter at home, who is currently unmarried. A decade or two ago, this would not be the case.  

Going forward, she would like to see specialized training programs so the women can pursue training for business ventures of their interest. Due to the wide range of ages in the group, it is currently difficult to do so in a large group setting. She notes that the younger women are more interested in sewing and tailoring, while the older women are interested in setting up, and running animal farms.

About the author:

Neha is currently a first year medical student at Michigan State University, and is completing a masters in Global Health from McMaster. She has recently spent time in rural Nepal, speaking with local women and girls who are empowered through access to equal education; and in India studying the role of Ayurvedic medicine in healthcare. She has an eye for adventure and is full of compassion. Her passion lies in working for the international community, she hopes to take her learnt practice and knowledge to places in need. Her hobbies include reading menus, learning new languages and traveling. 


The clay pots Dhankumari’s husband makes

The clay pots Dhankumari’s husband makes


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