Somibai Jadhav grew up in a poor family with parents who loved her and who worked as agriculture laborers. She did not go to school and learned stitching and machine sewing before she was married at age 18 to her husband who was poorer than her parents. The two of them worked in agriculture making Rs. 30 per day in total income. Somibai and her husband worked very hard, but it was difficult when she had to bring her two young children to the fields with her since she could not afford to stay home and take care of them. The family used to migrate seasonally to continue working, spending part of the year in Bijapur area and part of the year in Maharashtra.
In the early 1990s, Somibai met a woman who represented Sabala NGO who had come to learn about her lifestyle and craft in the village she lived in. After learning more about Somibai’s story, the woman, Laxmi Putani, invited her to join as a founding member of Sabala. She has been with Sabala now for twenty-five years. Sabala asked Somibai to organize a group of women to start saving money. Somibai and nineteen other women formed the Rukmini Mahila Sangha group and started saving Rs. 2 per person each week, which Sabala would match in a grant given to the group to fund their children’s education and other needs.
Through Sabala, Somibai’s world has been expanded and her life has been improved. She has attended many trainings on design development, agriculture, and gardening. After her initial training, she started doing craft for Sabala and has been doing so for 15 years. The training and awareness programs that she has attended through Sabala, as well as her work, have given her confidence and pushed her to get education for all of her seven children instead of sending them to work during their childhood. Now, all her children have completed 12th Standard and her two daughters are married. Her sons are studying engineering and law. It was difficult in the beginning to work and take care of her children, but her family is now better off financially and educationally for her efforts.
Somibai and the other women in the Rukmini Mahila Sangha group have benefitted not only from their increased awareness and income, but also from grants and seed money given by Sabala to construct homes and provide for other needs. Somibai now works 3 to 4 hours, makes Rs. 50 to Rs. 60 per day and spends the rest of her time cooking and bringing food to her children in Bijapur where they are studying. She and her husband now own some land and have access to good water. Somibai is able to work half-time with Sabala and bring in much more money than she did previously while still taking care of her family and working alongside her husband in their own farm. Additionally, Somibai is a member of the Chaitanya Women’s Cooperative Bank Ltd. which was founded by Sabala and has property and assets in her own name.
Aside from training and awareness programs, Somibai has also had many opportunities to travel outside of Bijapur, something that is unlikely for an uneducated woman. She has travelled to Bangalore, Delhi, and Kolkata with Sabala staff for trade exhibitions. Somibai has even outside of the country to South Africa when she was sent to represent Sabala at an exhibition and exchange of craft organized between the Indian and African governments in 2011. Although she was afraid and anxious about the trip, she did not want to miss out on the opportunity and she ended up having a chance to teach many others about her craft, met the Prime Minister of India, and was paid Rs. 1,000 per day for the fourteen day trip.
Somibai’s husband did not support her trip to South Africa, even going so far as to forbid her to go and withholding her luggage when it was time for her to depart. Even the resistance from her family did not stop her from taking the opportunity to learn and grow. With the support of her friends and mentors at Sabala, Somibai successfully made the trip and had a wonderful experience.
She is a part of the core committee at Sabala and now saves Rs. 25 per week. She is proud of and enjoys doing her embroidery work. Before becoming involved with Sabala, Somibai used to be unable to travel to Bijapur alone. Now she has confidence in herself and has increased independence and regularly travels alone, which has been a big change she has seen in her life and the lives of other women who have found Sabala.
At first, Somibai had some challenges from other women in her village who did not approve of her involvement in Sabala, her level of independence and activity, and her desire to do more with her life. Now, she is a respected and influential person in her community and can reach out to other women to help them discover their own power.