Every year we acknowledge Men’s achievement and their contribution to our society as a great success but the self-made women of our country who fight against all odds are often unrecognised and unacknowledged for their achievements. So this year at iVolunteer we decided to interview some of these powerful women who are challenging gender roles and breaking the rules to fight for gender equality! One such example is Swati Ingole, Founder/Trustee of Shield Foundation.
In a recent discussion with her, we asked her questions on Gender equality and women’s role in the society, and this is what she had to say:
What inspired you to make the decision of getting into the social sector?
I can’t tolerate intolerance. With that being said, social work has always been one of my interests. Working with elderly people and to help resolve social issues, is something that motivates me. The reason why I mainly chose to do this is because nobody was up for it and I wanted to make that change happen.
We are three sisters and no brother in the family. I am the 3rd daughter. Since it was there last attempt, there was no hope for my parents of having son. My mother was little upset initially, but my father consoled her that he will look after her in her old age and will also empower his daughters like sons. Still people kept telling my mother, the importance of having a son in old age. My father, Dr. D. K. Morey, was a professor of Agronomy. He was amongst the toppers since his childhood and Ph.D. holder from Indian Agriculture Research Institute. In his carrier he received, the best Scientist Award and also the Best teacher Award, he was a very open minded person and had given us freedom to choose our career. But since childhood, I heard, few close relatives kept him telling to transfer his property in their name, as daughters are going to remain with in-laws. But my father was firm on his decision and kept his words. He made my mother, nominee for his entire property and kept it for us. For that reason, he did not get support from some of his relatives. Therefore, since when I grew up, I had an anger for such people, who feel that girls are inferior. I have been nurtured like a son by my parents. My father taught me everything from money management to buying grocery for home. He encouraged me to do things myself, he never accompanied us after our schooling. I was not aware and sometimes was very angry with him for not giving me support for doing my work. But now I realized that he was making us self-sufficient and empowered. After my, graduation I thoughtfully chosen social sector for making my career in the field. I did MSW with the specialization in Medical and Psychiatric Social Work from Matru Sewa Sangh Institute of Social Work, Nagpur.
How difficult is to manage your professional and personal life since you work in the social sector?
The difficulty always exists but that never lets me down. My family understands my passion and dedication and have always supported my decisions, especially my Mother, she has been a great support. If you focus on your goal and work hard for it then I believe nothing is impossible.
Marriage brought me in Mumbai. I had never been in Mumbai earlier before marriage. So it was very difficult to go out alone here. After marriage life changed drastically. I tried for job in TISS and got a job on Ad-hoc basis as a lecturer. But I couldn’t continue it for a long time. My health also was deteriorating I was suffering from Asthma and was identified as a case of grade 3 spondylolisthesis. I gave birth to two daughters after which doctors restricted me from doing hard work. I lost my father. I spent almost 12 years as a housewife. I felt like I am becoming burden for my husband. I started becoming mentally weak, lost my confidence and then I felt if I become helpless and weak, my daughters will also not grow as a strong individuals. My mother is very strong individual and has been my best guide and mentor throughout. She always believed in me and motivated me that these illnesses cannot restrict me from achieving anything I want. She always says that I have given birth to my kids and know their potential. You are different and should not restrict yourself from doing what you want to do. She supported me in raising my kids, when I started working after 12 years. I has lost my confidence but then after listening to the grievances of other people, utilized my anger against the people, who abuse the helpless and weak people in taking action against them and that too with my professional knowledge and skill. My job never remained only my job, I found myself back and was very happy and fulfilled. I never thought of time while doing my job. Slowly my husband also realized my love and passion for my work as probably he never have seen me so happy during those years. My husband started supporting me later. My mother and my husband then motivated me to start my own work, with my creativity and innovation to find solutions for the issues in society. So Shield (Society for Health, Innovation, Education, Liaison Development ) Foundation is initiated in 2010.They supported me financially and mentally during those years. I feel Difficulties is a sign of new learning opportunity and overcoming is gaining new strength. My daughters have grown up looking at me and the love for my work. So they naturally have understood the significance of passion. I am a proud mother, as both of them have grown up as mature, decisive and responsible girls. My journey has just started and have long way to go.
I feel, you need not have to take special efforts to raise your children, you just have to guide them and they learn much more from their observation from their surroundings. If you have certain goals and honest dedication and that to for right things, everything turns out positively.
Would you recommend other women to also work in the social sector?
Yes, absolutely. I would love to inform, update and recommend women to get into the social sector. Challenge yourself at every step. Learn from challenges, as woman has the natural power of rebirth (childbirth is often referred to as a rebirth). Woman can understand deeply the sorrows and difficulties of everyone naturally due to her motherly instinct. Therefore I feel they should take over the social sector to help people. In this sector you can earn blessings as well, which otherwise is only possible in the other noble professions.
When I came to Mumbai 24 years back , I had no relative in Mumbai . But now due to this work I have so many near dear people. I just want to say, ‘Tum Besahara ho to kisika sahara bano, tumko apne aap hi sahara mil Jayega’.
I have not got only Sahara, but have got strength to empower other who are in need. Through Shield, We have empowered more than 1200 girls with Skill training and provided individual support for more than 3000 elderly people by networking with more 49 organisations including various hospitals, corporate and social organisations.
What is your definition of #PowerInYou?
Power in you is nothing but hard work and believing in your dreams and yourself. Power in you is also not to surrender yourself to ‘Gender Inequality’.
We have much to do, much to be and much to achieve. Are you ready to bring out the #PowerInYou on this IWD 2017 and beyond?