Members of Bharata Mahila Mandali are carrying forward a legacy handed down to them close to a century ago
Most of them can be bracketed in the middle age, the period of age beyond young adulthood but before the onset of old age. Some of them are empty-nesters or about to be empty-nesters; they’re either 20-something years into a marriage and are in midlife, a time when we question what we’ve done, or more likely haven’t done, and where do we want to be.
Getting old can be a drag and middle age is particularly fraught with tensions. But this group of women enjoys every moment of the journey. Equipped with a fair amount of trust, hope and self-belief, they are successfully carrying forward a legacy handed down to them by their predecessors over 80 years back.
They are members of city-based Bharata Mahila Mandali donning the role of change agents to alter lives of the less privileged women for the better.
A visit to the Mahila Mandali office on Eluru Road at Governorpet and a glance at the string of activities of the organization makes one realise that there can be nothing more beautiful than someone who goes out of their way to make life beautiful for others.
The office building on the ground floor is flanked by additional rooms put to use to impart training to women from economically backward sections in vocational courses like, tailoring, fabric painting, glass painting, embroidery and muggam work.
A working women’s hostel on the first floor is a small source of income that is again recycled to improve services. Free training as part of annual summer camps attract participation of women from across the city in droves.
A family counselling centre attached to the organization helps sparring couples sort out marital disputes. “We have a couple of police officials, an advocate, a psychiatrist and a social worker attached to the centre to offer need-based services to the couples in conflict,” says Valluru Kanchana, Chairperson of the counselling centre and secretary of the Mahila Mandali.
Besides running a free paediatric clinic every Wednesday, the women also operate five crèches in slum areas of Old Raja Rajeswaripet, Lenin Nagar, New Vambay Colony, Vijaya Durga Nagar and Gunadala. This is to ensure that the kids of the financially poor women who go to work to supplement their spouse’s income are well taken care of in their absence.
Distribution of tricycles to physically challenged persons and push carts to vegetable vendors in addition to sponsoring of education for 30 meritorious students pursuing medicine course comprises their activities.
Many of its nearly 500 members are associated with the organization for last 50 years, informs president A. Ratna Lakshmi.
With education and health as their focus areas, the members have drawn up elaborate plan to expand their horizons in the days to come. The service activities are partially funded by the Central Social Welfare Board, an autonomous body working under the Government of India.
“The remaining expenditure we manage by pooling money contributed by members,” chips in V. Anuradha, vice-president of the organization.
The Mahila Mandali was started in 1928 by Janaki Chandran, wife of the then Sub-Collector with the assistance of Achanta Catherine Subbarayudu, Turlapati Rajarajeswaramma and Aluru Nancharamma.
These women attended an All India Women’s Conference held in Delhi in February 1928 and returned home enlightened.
Eager to inform, educate and empower women of the lower strata around them, they established the Mahila Mandali in the next couple of months.
Disengagement with technology is a bane that they want to remove by introducing new technology in their day-today life