After her husband died Sanjivani began to be harassed by her cousin, who tried to drive her from the land she and her husband lived on. In India, a widow often becomes an easy target for abuse, and Sanjivani faced the real prospect of destitution.
"For six years I struggled with my family to own the land. My cousin tried to force me to leave the land, to move away from my village." She paused for breath as she recalled the pain. "He intimidated me for six years. He would bang on my door at night. I felt so much fear but I was determined to stay in my home."
When her cousin's attempts to intimidate Sanjivani failed, he resorted to more sinister methods, including sexual harassment. Eventually she filed a court case and only after police intervention did he finally leave her alone.
Sanjivani struggled to gain ownership of her one acre, eventually managing to buy it under the government's right to land scheme for scheduled castes. She now farms this land, growing cotton, millet and pulses, generating much needed income for her family.
Ashok Tawale from Asmita, a project funded by Karuna that helped Sanjivani, says, "I saw a spark in Sanjivani - that's why we chose her. She was looking after her family alone. Not everyone has this potential. We need more Sanjivanis in society."
Manisha, also from Asmita, explains: "We help a woman to develop the confidence to bring her dream alive in a society that opposes her. Asmita provides the opportunity. The work of the social activist is to identify people's dreams. We are challenging society, status and caste. If we don't support her during the most challenging times she will lose her dreams."
Sanjivani is the proud owner of her own land and despite being illiterate, she also clearly has an entrepreneurial streak. She is now poised to launch a masala (spice) business. The project is much more than selling spices, however. She has identified 40 families to sell spices in various locations, and from these she has selected five women to run the business. This responsibility feels like a big step for Sanjivani.
"I'm very glad to be doing this work. My family is living well. I want to see other women living a satisfying life. The people who used to mock me because I was a widow now treat me with respect. Many women never leave their village. However, because of Asmita, some women can find new opportunities. This is all possible thanks to Karuna."
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