Mehtaben Nagji Gadhvi
South Central Asia · India
From Poverty to Prosperity to Leadership
Mehtaben Gadhvi (52) got married at 14 to a 40-year-old violent, unemployed husband, later giving birth to 6 girls and 1 boy. Before joining SEWA (Self-employed women’s association), Mehtaben never ate with other women nor talked to any men. However, after getting involved in various training sessions, she began to speak before women and men about issues in her village, listening to the villagers’ problems and initiating activities on their behalf.
Mehtaben started as a team member of an insurance program for poor women, explaining the importance of insurance and encouraging village women to take out insurance. She persuaded 700 to 800 women to do so and continued to help other village women to do the same. She also trained rural women leaders and organized 2500 women from the Lakpat taluka region in Gujarat. Additionally, she helps women to successfully borrow money from different sources and ensures timely reimbursement.
Mehtaben learned about the importance of reducing the effects of climate change through SEWA’s education and guidance. She has since been actively working in water conservation, well repair, nursery raising, fodder growing, vermin-composting production, and the use of economically and environmentally friendly cook stoves and solar lanterns. After learning such valuable information, she took it upon herself to educate other women of the importance of solar lanterns and provided 125 such lanterns at subsidized rates.
Mehtaben also leads the water campaign team in constructing 85 rainwater-harvesting tanks in her village, which help to store rainwater. These tanks provide immediate access to safe, pure drinking water around the year, saving time, which can be used for livelihood activities. The benefits of these advancements include an increase in income and an improved the quality of life for all village members.
Mehtaben, with 5 cows to her name, produces enough milk to earn an income from the local dairy cooperative where she sells her surplus milk. She also started a prosperous decoration business and helped all of her daughters to marry. Mehtaben’s accomplishments inspire and empower other women, showing them that they too can change their lives for the better.
As a result of her own ambition, dedication and training, there have been remarkable changes in her community and Mehtaben now feels empowered, which is exemplified by her success of being elected as an executive committee member in the Kutch Craft District Association.