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by Avni Malhotra

Basanti (23) is a simple tribal woman from a small village in Orissa. Basanti joined Heifer's Tribal Empowerment Through Sustainable Livelihood Program in 2010 as a member of a self help group. Her family’s main source of income is labor, and they have a small plot of land that they cultivate. Since it is a joint family, the expenses keep growing as the elderly can’t contribute as much and the needs of the five year old son grow. She started working as a local health worker last year, and this increased her income. Also, she manages to sell the fruits and vegetables she cultivates as a part of the Heifer project and this also substantiates her income.

When I visited her village she was one of the eight people who was giving her gift to another woman very much like her. Basanti shines in the Heifer India program as one of the women who is an example of the Value Based Holistic Community Development Model. She gave her gift joyously along with vegetables and plants. She and her entire family; parent in-laws Kisnu and Karna, husband Hemanta and son Soumyaranajn all danced along with the gift recipient family (and me).

Following the Passing on the Gift ceremony, Basanti participated in a play she and her friends had scripted, directed and acted in. She played the role of a spoiled son who wastes his mother’s time and money.

After the ceremony was over she took us to her house — a neat mud walled hut with a thatched roof. She showed us her goat shed, which had been made in the corner of her house. The craftsmanship and the manner in which the bamboo was tied together make the goat shed very impressive. It was well ventilated.

Basanti has self-respect and does not want to be a burden on anyone. Her drive to improve her lot motivated her to take up the work of the village health worker. Today she has three pigs, three goats and eight hens. She has worked hard and demonstrated an improvement in her family income.

Editor’s note: This post is part of a series that follows the progress of specific families, starting at the beginning of their work with Heifer. Today's post is the first in a series of  quarterly updates on the progress of Basanti and her family.


Heifer India