14-year-old Shree Dhanlaxmi Mahila Mandal is the recipient of Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation’s (NMMC) Krantijyoti Savitribai Fule Award in 2013-14. Founded by Vashi resident Vanita Gadade (Raje), this mandal has many feathers on its cap and has set a precedent. Moreover, it has empowered women and takes pride in helping women keep their kitchen fires burning.
The organization runs classes for women in mehendi, beautician, embroidery, baking, cooking, making candles and agarbattis (incense sticks), tailoring, karate free of cost. It raises funds for these classes from sale of ‘Dhanlaxmi agarbattis’.
They also conduct various health camps and awareness workshops along with counselling sessions. All this became possible only by the single-minded focus and determination of Gadade.
“It is sad that women don’t support each other in our society. A mother-in-law becomes the biggest hindrance for a daughter-in-law’s progress. We encourage families to support working women. A positive approach alone can bring about change,” she said.
She aims to divert jealousy and ego in to some positive activities. Gadade has also choreographed folk dances and tries to inculcate good values in women while empowering them.
Not restricted to women alone, the organization has extended hands to needy students from underprivileged background by providing them coaching to hone talent. Classes for children include painting, drawing, singing, karate etc.
The organization organizes inter-school talent competition for children in association with NMMC. Cultural programmes like Mangalagaur and Haldi Kumkum help bring women together. A singing contest is held for senior citizens too.
The mandal’s strength has now increased to more than 3000 women. Other awards received include ‘Kartutvan Mahila Puraskar’ (Enterprising Woman Award) in 2013 by Rayat Shikshan Sanstha, ‘Gaurav Sanman Puraskar’ in 2014, ‘Beti Bachao – Beti Padhao Puraskar’ in 2015 by Indian Anti-Corruption Committee.
“At the end of the day, a woman should feel happy and blessed. She must find time for herself to rest and enjoy. I plan to organize a bike rally for women soon,” she said.
Pics By Farooq Sayed