In 2019, the nonprofit I work with, did a sample survey with women farmers and agri-entrepreneurs in the villages of Osmanabad in Maharashtra. We conducted the survey with 100 women in the district, before reaching out to a total of 5,000 women we had worked with across Maharashtra.
We had a long list of questions to assess where they stood on the leadership ladder, that is, whether one was a village-level leader or a district-level leader and so on. We would then help them build their leadership abilities accordingly. For example, if someone was now capable of addressing their issues to village-level authorities, we would assist them in doing the same at the district level.
The many questions we sent them also required them to fill in details about their savings. Over the years, we have been encouraging our women leaders to save for the future. We wanted to know how far our women leaders have come in achieving this financial goal. We learned that they were saving in bank savings accounts and fixed deposits, buying LIC policies, and converting their cash to gold. The women were more than eager to share with us all the details of their savings, except for those in gold. When we asked them why they were hesitant, they retorted, “Why do you need to know how much gold we have?” As we continued our conversations and dug deeper, we realised that many of these women were saving in gold without the knowledge of their husbands. Some said they were doing so to save for their children’s weddings, and that their husbands won’t understand the need for this.
We promptly dropped the question about gold from the final survey because we did not want to insist on gathering information that our community was uncomfortable sharing. We got one less answer, but gained a lot of learning from that exercise.
Dipali Kakasaheb Thodsare is the director of Manjiri Sakhi Producer Company, an all-women farmer producer company.
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