In West Bengal’s Sundarbans delta, women in a village built a brick road to make their village accessible. The force behind this? Meena Gayen, a 36-year-old woman from Tridibnagar a village in South 24 Paraganas district of West Bengal.
Villages in the area are surrounded by creeks and tidal rivers making it difficult to construct a permanent road. The village struggles with accessibility to basic amenities like schools and hospitals.
Having studied up to Grade 4, like many girls in the village, she was made to stay at home and do household work. Her parents refused to send her to school to the neighboring village and was married off early to a farmer. She ran a food stall of her own, though assisted by her husband during a lean agricultural seasons.
When she was pregnant, Meena tripped on a slippery path and miscarried. She had to travel by cart to a hospital 10 kilometres away.
This traumatic event made a huge mark in her psyche and made her think about all women and children; she decided to finally act on it.
“Merely due to lack of road and pathway, we could not continue to lose lives and opportunities. The thought ignited my mind. Once my heart was set on somehow building a road, things began to fall in place,” says Meena.
It became easier for Meena to mobilize women to construct a road. And seeing the women’s passion and determination the men too joined in.
Meena approached World Vision India, an NGO, working for the children in rural areas and her village.
The 1km brick road was built in 2012 within 15 days. It connects Meena’s village to the main road, called the Panchayat Road.
The road has not only benefited Meena’s two sons, but also other children, who traverse to reach the nearby school.
More such roads have been built owing to the grit and passion of Meena.
“Today, we are a group of proud women, who can say we made a difference by bettering the lives of our community.” she added.
The recognition that Meena has got has enabled her to think further.
“I want to make good use of this opportunity and am already on the path of designing a blueprint and providing more developmental activities in our village. My priority though is to set-up a school in the village, so that children, especially girls, are spared from travelling long distances,” she divulged.