Mother’s Day Special: Supermom’s dairy business uplifts Sitapur village, helps women afford kids’ education
In 2021, Sudha Pandey not only won the Gokul Award but also the Nand Baba Award for preservation of indigenous breed cows, an achievement that reflects her dedication.
Whoever coined the proverb “it takes a village to raise a child” probably didn’t meet Sudha Pandey, the ‘supermom’ from Sitapur who not only looked after her four sons but also cows while ensuring that other women in the village had the financial capability to afford education of their kids.
A resident of Kunwarapur village, Pandey is now admired by people in the region for being an award-winning entrepreneur, a job provider and an activist for women empowerment. But her eyes gleam whenever she is praised as an excellent mother, who despite hardships, raised her sons and made them successful individuals.
While Pandey, in her early fifties now, never got a chance to study beyond primary level, she made sure that all her four sons got the right education. Besides taking care of their daily needs, she worked very hard to turn her small cowshed into an award-winning dairy business employing 11 women of the self-help group she formed in 2002.
Credit to her business acumen, she also started using the cow dung from her shed to make organic compost and sell it to farmers. Eventually, she also started selling cow urine. Due to her thriving business, Pandey has been conferred the Gokul Award, given for highest milk production in the region, six times.
In 2021, she not only won the Gokul Award but also the Nand Baba Award for preservation of indigenous breed cows, an achievement that reflects her dedication.
“In 2002, I formed a self-help group with 11 other women to secure a loan under the Swarn Rozgar Yojana. However, it took us three years to get the loan as the bank employees were in two minds about our abilities to pay back the money. Once we got the loan, we started a dairy business,” said Pandey while recounting the struggles she faced.
“However, we faced hurdles as there was no ‘Khoya Mandi’ (market for dried evaporated milk solids) in the region. Thankfully, we were able to tie up with Parag (a brand selling dairy products). The weekly payments we received from the brand helped us pay back the loan in time and afford the education of our children,” she added.
Her eldest son (36) is a ‘Pashu Mitra’ at a government veterinary hospital while the second one (30) works for ICICI Bank. Her third son (26) works at IBM as a network engineer while the youngest (23) works for HDFC Bank.
“Initially, villagers didn’t like that I was working outside. It was seen as a man’s job. I would wake up at 4 am to feed the cows and prepare my kids for school. It was difficult to manage things with our meagre income but all along, I had this burning desire to change things for better. I believe that self-motivation helped me take care of kids and the cows as well,” said Pandey whose husband Ram Naresh is a small-time farmer.
Recalling his childhood and the sacrifices his mother made for him and his brothers, Ashutosh, the youngest of four siblings, said, “In a way, our mother has strengthened the village economy. Several other women could contribute to their household income because of her. I remember how she would wake up before the crack of the dawn every day. It is almost superhuman to stick to such a rigorous routine. Even after all this, she never spent much on herself. We were always her priority. If not for her, we wouldn’t be doing well in life.”