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Published on: March 29, 2021, 11:53 a.m.
MMF makes ripples of positive change
  • Ritu Chhabria (centre) giving bicycles to girl students

By Sekhar Seshan. Consulting Editor, Business India

Two years ago, Mukul Madhav Foundation (MMF) identified 312 widow farmers in Maharashtra’s Osmanabad district and educated them about the best farming practices, soil testing and selling techniques for the harvested crop. MMF, the CSR partner of the Pune-headquartered Finolex Industries Limited (FIL), donated 30 kg of soya seeds and 15 kg of tur seeds to each of them through the Krishi Vidyan Kendra. The intervention by MMF and FIL has enabled more than 180 of these women to repay their debts and support their children’s education.

At MMF, which has been working over the last two decades in healthcare, education, water conservation and sanitation, the focus over the last five years has been on women – to engage, enable and empower across age groups., believes “There is always a lot to be done,” says Ritu Prakash Chhabria, managing trustee, MMF. “The foundation has been collaborating with like-minded partners to intervene in the remotest parts of the country and bring about ripples of positive change.”

Working with the BAIF Institute for Sustainable Livelihoods and Development (BISLD), the foundation and its partners have exposed 100 women to mechanised farming and crop productivity enhancement techniques. These 100 ‘champions’ are now training 1,000 more women farmers, completing the cycle by not only empowering themselves but also sharing their knowledge in their community. 

In the past three years, they have also built more than 500 individual toilets for the tribal villagers, in collaboration with Yuva Parivartan. MMF extended its work with Yuva Parivartan in 2019 to build safe, hygienic and equipped ‘menstruation homes’ for women, who were otherwise banished into unsafe huts during their periods. The new ‘homes’ are eco-friendly, well equipped with bedding, ventilation and electrification, as well as two sewing machines, so that the women can be occupied and upskill themselves. 

Chhabria recognises, however, that this is not a solution to the prevalent social stigma. “In 2020, when we started working with local villagers, it was evident that the men from the community were more proactive and willing to help with this initiative,” she says. “This is a beginning for men to support women. This stigma will surely change in the days to come.”It is, she adds, ‘admirable’ that men stand up in support: “As is known, it takes two hands to clap.”

An unconventional project saw MMF guide 30 self-driven young women to ITI, Pune’s girls’ college, where they were trained in plumbing, a vocation which is generally not associated with females. Finolex then supported them with basic online plumbing training and certificates, which in turn also helped them to get connected with the Indian Plumbing Association’s Pune Chapter. And, they have provided the girls with a book called All about plumbing. “As the pandemic dies out, they will be connected with CREDAI for internships and job opportunities,” says Prakash P. Chhabria, executive chairman of the company. In Solapur, 100 girls were given bicycles to ensure that they can continue their education, despite the distance to schools and the lack of transport.

MMF has reached out to vulnerable HIV-positive mothers and sex workers and provides them with dry groceries every month, as well as regular counselling for their rehabilitation. Some 18 such affected women have been provided with sewing machines to create a livelihood opportunity for themselves. The UAE-headquartered Kashka, a garment house known internationally for its jalabiyas, hijabs and other modest fashion wear, which it retails through its 30-plus stores in the Gulf, France, Singapore and other countries, is providing them training and buying back the finished goods.

In its effort to make healthcare accessible to all age groups of women, the NGO has provided the young ones with vaccination against cervical cancer, middle-aged women with mammography camps and senior citizens with geriatric screening camps. Another unique initiative aimed at seniors, Aaji Bai Chi Shaala (grandmothers go to school), provided 100 of them in a rural area of Junnar district near Pune with basic literacy courses to enable them to be more self-sufficient.

Finolex Industries also has an employee engagement programme with MMF, encouraging its teams all over India to get involved in various initiatives taken by the latter. “We are honoured to be able to serve society with the utmost transparency,” adds Prakash Chhabria. “It is heart-warming to have Finolex participating and ensuring that each of our initiatives is well-maintained and sustained.”

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