7, April, 2007: Mogalamma is barely in her 20s but her harrowing life is etched on her furrowed face and sunken eyes. Married to an alcoholic, mother to a mentally-challenged son, her troubles deepened when she was widowed early. Three years ago, she was raped by the local money-lender and left to die in the fields of her Chauderpalli village in Mahboobnagar district of Andhra Pradesh.
Mogalamma with her young son
Mogalamma, who is from the Dalit community that occupies the lowest rung of India's social hierarchy, she fought for justice for two years but couldn't crack the protective cordon the upper castes in her village threw up to protect the money-lender.
"Nobody helped me those two years," says Mogalamma. "The police was not willing to register my case; even the sarpanch did not help me. It was only the women's group that stood by me. And it is thanks to them that I could even take it up. Then, my own father forced me to seek a compromise and asked me to withdraw the case after the moneylender had been in jail for a few months. But the SHG group supported me and spoke to the higher-ups. Women like me have developed a lot of self-confidence because of this support. My future is now with the group," says Mogalamma says.
Today, thanks to the local women's self-help groups (SHG), Mogalamma has not only recovered her dignity, but is able to take care of her and her family's needs. She lives with her parents and child in a spartan house that the SHG helped her get under a government scheme.
The SHG gave her a loan to buy a buffalo, whose milk she sells locally. It also helped her get a job cooking mid-day meals at the local primary school. It is also helping her with her child's rehabilitation and treatment. "While he may never be cured completely, at least the school is now allowing him to attend classes," Mogalamma says. "All this is thanks to the SHG."