For the last seven years, she has tried to be the voice of marginalised women across the state while helping the poor and needy get their entitlements.
By carrying out various activities in the fields of education, constitutional & personal law and health, she has made the underprivileged sections of the society aware of their rights. And for her sincere endeavours, State Convener of Bhartiya Muslim Mahila Andolan, Farhat Amin has been felicitated several times, both within and outside the state. But for this lady, the journey as a social worker has just begun.
R&M catches up with Amin, who is also the secretary of Bold Initiatives, Research and Documentation (BIRD) to find out how she took community service after working as a journalist for over a decade.
…as a social worker
“I think I was drawn towards social work while I was a journalist as many of my peers used to come to me to share their problems or seek advice,” sincerely shares Amin. She was requested by BIRD to work with them and she believed that this would give her a chance to experience and understand poverty first hand.
“Like I mentioned earlier, some of them used to comment that I would make a good counsellor. I decided to seek career guidance about the different counseling professions and somehow felt that social work was what I wanted to do. I like the wholesome approach that social work promotes,” says Amin.Thus began her work with BIRD.
It was the first time she visited a village and her first encounter working with rural communities. The year Amin joined, rural Odisha shared a very low or negligible percentage of education ratio among woman and children.
“To my surprise when I visited the village, I noticed the women digging something. Children were equally helping their mothers in the process. I got to know that they were digging the tubers of the grass for their meal,” she shares. This was Amin’s first brush with true poverty, she says. It made her understand that this world requires a lot of changes.
The health camp
The organisation came up with a health camp for animals in the village called Sathbaatia, Odisha. The purpose she selected to set the health camp for animals is, she found most of the women in the village often rear cattle as a source of income. But, unfortunately most of the time due to lack of healthcare awareness of cattle, they face heavy lose.
“We introduced regular camps, vet hospitals and health centres in the village to reduce the traveling to cities for check-up,” says Amin. She even highlighted that visiting vets were rare habit among the villagers.
Women at home though are the cattle care-takers but traveling distance with cattle was not possible for many. Most of the time phones don’t work due to network problem. BIRD thought of it and decided to educate women about vet health camps and give ease to women.
Besides, the vet heath camp provides aid on herbal and easy treatment facility. They also inspect and advise on the cattle sheds, their immediate surrounding problems and hygiene issues. This saves time for women on traveling neighbouring cities or villages for aid or depends upon the male member to get them their medical aid.
This helps women with less knowledge to get exposure at their door-steps.
Talking about her journey as a woman social entrepreneur, Amin says that being a woman has never hindered her work. “Well, I am not a trained social worker,” says Amin. Social workers help people deal with personal and social problems in a variety of settings, some of which include hospitals, schools, community, health, drug and alcohol, local government, state and commonwealth government departments.
“I have been privileged to work in a variety of these settings but I have basically served women and children. I have also worked in the pediatrics department where my responsibilities included assisting and interacting with parents and providing information to help them support their child in the hospital. I have provided counseling services to ex-servicemen and their families. I have also been a counselor with the family court helping separated parents to sort out their children arrangements and visitation details,” adds Amin.
She further adds that it is an enabling environment and a space where women can grow. It helps them innovate and bring out their creativity.
Profession Vs Social
According to Amin, nobody teaches the social values. She says it is through direct interaction and immersion with the people that one gets to understand the importance and relevance of these values. “It made me realise that this is where the real work lies,” says Amin.
“The kind of job that I do involves working with families which are going through a difficult period in their lives. So it’s hard to say that I am a professional. However, I find it rewarding when I am able to make a positive difference in their lives, particularly the children,” says Amin.
She further states, they share with me how painful it is for them when their parents are fighting. So, when I am able to change their behavior, I find it rewarding.
On the professional front, it also feels good when I get feedback from judges that my reports have been helpful for them, adds Amin.
“Well, I wish to upgrade myself with a legal degree so that I can be more educated about the laws meant for individuals, particularly for women and children and help the society in a rightful manner,” says Amin.
Many cases exist where parents are unable to take care for their children and support their education expenses. BIRD Foundation has written several reports to the government and in turn many of them have been funded and given formal professional training. The major drawback is many people, especially in the rural sectors, are still unaware of the various training programmes the government conducts to help them lead a good life.
A piece of advise
The most important advice is that this is not a profession for those seeking a big income. It demands willingness to work with the most disadvantaged and vulnerable sections of the society. “The job requires a commitment to serve with compassion while determining how to advance the best interest of individuals without compromising their basic rights to justice,” says Amin.
According to her it never matters where someone comes from or how deep their pockets are or which caste, religion or community they belong to. Every woman comes in and they work together as one. “You don’t separate out your family from your organisation but you see the organisation as a larger family,” adds she.