They are the true friends of the state’s tribal population, especially the women and children. Thanks to their efforts, thousands of poor children get nutritious meals and a good education.
Mithanin, a women’s empowerment initiative, has given tribal mothers the power to ensure their children get a good start in life. Mithanin, which means friend, was started in 2003, primarily to monitor health services. It now boasts of a 60,000-strong group that oversees the implementation of most government schemes and gives feedback to the administration.
What makes the Mithanins special is that they not only set examples for others but are examples themselves of how women can overcome hardships and become empowered. Most of them face resistance — from their husbands, panchayats, administration. “They asked us what we women could do. We told them we could fight for our rights and for those of our children,” says Ram Bhai of Roka village.
Since they chose to fight back, the children now get to eat nutritious food and regular teachers at school. “If we bunk, they complain to the officials against us,” says S. Gupta, the sole teacher in the school in Roka.
Like most people who do good, the Mithanins get little support by way of money. They take money on a monthly interest of 15 per cent to buy food for the mid-day meals. “We have not got any money from the government for the last three months,” says Ram Bhai. District officials, however, blame the delay in disbursement on the block-level administration.
A regular day in the life of a Mithanin starts with an inspection of the anganwadi centres, where they ensure the dalia is properly prepared for the mid-day meal. Next, they visit primary schools and health centres. If they find problems, they prepare a report card and discuss the issue with other women. “We first try to correct the mistakes by involving the staff in schools or dispensaries. If that does not work, we send our report to the collector,” says Ram Bai.