Dalit Mahila Vikas Mandal (DMVM) was formed in 1990 by Adv. Varsha Deshpande in Satara. As a first step, we conducted a survey to identify Women who had been deserted by their families in Satara city. Such Women were identified. We collectivised these women and met with the local Collector and demanded that such women be issued separate ration cards and also provided livelihood skills. The district administration issued ration cards to these women. The success of this campaign motivated us to conduct a survey of deserted women across Satara district. Around 5000 women who were deserted by their husbands/families were identified and registered. Self Help Groups (SHG) of these women were formed at the village level. The women were also provided certain vocational skills to make a living. Simultaneously, we initiated a “Zunka Bhakri Kendra” at the State Transport bus stand employing the most vulnerable women. The Zunka Bhakri Kendra has been functional ever since and helps deserted women make a living by cooking and supplying food to bus travellers. We realised that one of the main reasons for desertion of women was alcoholism of their husbands and widespread sale of illicit liquor. Through a series of campaigns and movements, we emphasised on the District Administration to close down illicit liquor shops & bars.
Self Help Groups of women that were constituted continue to function as credit societies and have effectively mobilised resources/finances through district cooperative banks for initiating small enterprises and for various other needs. DMVM is in the process of trying to federate these groups and initiate a milk cooperative society. As part of our work, we also initiated a counselling and free legal aid cell to counsel women survivors of violence. The cell has also been functional since 1990. In 2001, it got affiliated to the Maharashtra State legal resources authority and in 2007; we were designated as a service providing organisation under the PWDV Act 2005.
During our interactions with SHG women, we realised that the practice of sex selection was becoming rampant and several women were being forced to go in for sex determination and pre-birth elimination of female fetuses. This motivated us to begin work on the issue of the girl child in general and sex selection in particular.
We began undertaking various campaigns on the issue of sex selection and improving the value of the girl child. We also worked on sensitising and creating awareness amongst a range of stakeholders on the issue of sex selection. These included women, youth, elected representatives, media etc. Simultaneously, in order to catch erring doctors, we initiated sting operations by taking decoy clients to doctors in the garb of having sex determination. So far, we have already conducted 47 sting operations all over Maharashtra.
We have also worked with the key implementing authorities – the appropriate authorities and advisory committees to improve implementation of PCPNDT Act.
Our Secretary, Adv Varsha Deshpande was and continues to be a member of various task forces under the PCPNDT Act like the Central Supervisory Board, The National inspection and monitoring committee etc. She is also a key trainer identified by UNFPA and the State Government for capacity building of various actors involved in the implementation of PCPNDT Act like judicial officers, prosecutors, Members of Advisory Committees, Appropriate Authorities etc.
In order to strengthen our work on PCPNDT Act implementation, we undertook an analysis of all cases where there had been an acquittal with support from Action Aid so as to help appropriate authorities plug these loopholes.
UNFPA supported us to build capacities of Village Health Nutrition and Sanitation Committee (VHNSC) members under the Government's flagship program Beti Bachao Beti Padhao. As part of this, we trained around 12500 VHNSC members in Beed. We also built capacities of Master trainers in nine other districts to, in turn, train VHNSC members to address issues of women’s health, well-being and sex selection in their areas.
We also work extensively with adolescents and Youth on the issue of gender equality and sex selection because we believe that reaching out to this group can impact their entire life ahead and in turn impact overall development of the country.
Through our journey, we have filled various PIL’s, appeared in interviews for cases under the PCPNDT Act. Currently, with support from UNFPA, we are actively working on a program to build the social, health and economic assets of adolescent girls by empowering them with information and skills so that they can fulfil their aspirations and make informed and responsible choices in decisions related to their health and well-being. This project is being undertaken in Shirur Kasar block of Beed district.