At the small age of 10, while playing with homemade dolls and neem rings, Padmashree awardee Phoolbasan Bai Yadav was married to a boy engaged in cattle grazing. After marriage, the doll dreams shattered and she had to enter a brutal reality where she had nothing to feel happy about. When women are lastly left with nothing but committing suicide after fighting endless nights without a morsel in their stomach and realizing the pain of hunger and poverty, she chose something extra ordinary and huge. She further adds, “I vowed to improve not only my situation but all such families living around and I tell you, there are countless such people in our state.” And not to wonder, this thought came in her determined when she herself was a BPL woman.
She was beaten and avoided by her husband when she questioned. All ways ended to nowhere but she never thought of cursing her life. She collected all her zeal and courage and looked beyond impossible and acute circumstances of her life. The first step started when the Govt. had declared a scheme for Women Empowerment by forming women self help groups. In hervillage, this self-help group collected money by motivating women and started a cattle rearingscheme. Smt. Phool Basan took part in it and time started changing in favor of her. Smt. Phoolbasan came in the limelight when she participated in the “Mahila Olympic” organized by the district administration and won the 1st prize in the “cycle race.” She was a woman of big heart and bigger dreams. She thought that her battle would be incomplete if only her life would change. She encouraged other women to participate as the key to happiness is in their hands only. She formed the ‘Pragya Mahila Samooh’, ‘Kiraya Bhandar’,’Bazar Theka’ and ration shops. By adopting these measures of economic growth, they improvedtheir economic condition.
The women self-help groups (WSHG) in the district play a very important role. They participate in health programmes such as pulse polio, nutrition such as: Bal Bhoj to young children in the schools and anganwadis, education of children through enrolment and regular attendance especially for girl children. They also try to prevent early marriages. This is a voluntary effort encouraged by the district administration. “. She contributed significantly to the literacy campaign in the district. She won the Maa Bamleshwari Award for Save the Water programme, at the hands of the State Minister. She became a source of inspiration for thousands of women in the district. Her leadership skills, politeness, dedication to work and inspiring personality have made the programmes a grand success in the district.
Now, in just eleven years of her social work, she has gone on to lead 12,000 women self-help groups that have a total strength of 200,000 women workers in almost all the districts of Chhattisgarh. Just a seventh-grade pass out, this woman has created a viable business model, which highly-educated entrepreneurs in big metros can only dream about.
The group doesn’t ask or receive any donations from any foreign or local donors but has still managed to collect a sum of Rs. 15 crore in a decade. “We started with Rs. 2 per head per week from every member and because of that we managed to collect this sum,” she adds.
Currently, she has taken the responsibility for the education of 54 kids in the state. Her efforts have also led to the closure of 250 liquor stores under a campaign and also, 570 child marriages have been stopped in the district.
Awards are nothing new to this woman who has been striving not only to make women economically independent but also make sure that they are given due respect. Mrs. Yadav and her remarkable social work have earned her the title of ‘Brand ambassador’ for state government’s Janana Suraksha Yojana (maternity security scheme). Zee TV Mumbai conferred her with ‘Zee Astitwa Award’ in 2008 and Government of India awarded her with ‘Stree Shakti Award’, to name a few along with the biggest honor Padamshree awarded by ex President Mrs. Pratibha Patil herself.