Being Woman: Bettering Lives


Situated in the Jawhar Taluka of Thane District of Maharashtra, Pragati Pratishthan is a non-governmental organization established in the year 1972. Started by Vasantrao Patwardhan, his wife Sunandatai Patwardhan became the backbone of this organisation who worked for bringing development in this region. 

It started off by providing with a small hostel for needy students so they could stay in vicinity of the school and study. The 70-plus woman has been working for the deaf and dumb children of these tribals, educating them and even making provision for their employment when they grow up. 

In 1985, when Pragati Pratishthan started a school for the deaf and the dumb, there were hardly 8 to 10 children, all above the age of 10. Today the school prides in caring for more than 50 children, right from infants to 18-year olds. Sunandatai, as she is fondly called, strongly reiterates the need for vocational training for these children. She feels that NGOs working with disabled children should give more importance to vocational training than academic degrees. "It has been our effort to make recent mothers come to our sessions with their babies, so that the child and the mother both learn how to communicate from the very start. It also helps in development of their vocal chords to some extent," says a determined Sunanda Patwardhan. 

And now, this organisation runs other project like bringing electricity in the tribal region through solar energy project, bringing water near the houses through solar pumps, running a school for the deaf and dumb, giving employment to students studying in the residential schools, among others. 

The main goal of this organisation is tribal empowerment throughout an integrated approach; encouraging villagers to explore the possibilities of modern amenities and facilities in the fields of education, health, agriculture, water management and energy conservation among others. 

Patwardhan believes that even as women's empowerment is a must and an important aspect of an equal society, and have the right to fight for their rights; all the same, it is important to teach them a sense of responsibility and self-reliance.

She also believes that understanding the problem and then working on its solution is the way that will help in better development of this tribal region. "One needs to have patience when doing these works. Change cannot be expected overnight," she concludes.



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