Madhya Pradesh, INDIA – From a young age, Anita Katare was determined to become financially independent. Her father died soon after she was born, and she and her three siblings were raised by a single mother. She struggled early on, facing the challenges and expectations that came with being a girl in rural India. But through hard work and persistence, Anita found a way to support herself and her family, while making a difference in her community.
In 2018, Anita opened a fair price shop in her village of Kothisodpur, in the Dhar district of Madhya Pradesh, India. Previously, the nearest shop had been four kilometres away and family members – most often women – in the village would need to walk there and back to buy household commodities. During the rainy season, the river would sometimes overflow, leaving no way to cross. This often meant that families would need to purchase their groceries from the market at a higher, unsubsidized rate, increasing demands on their finances.
At first some villagers discouraged Anita from owning the fair price shop, as women were not traditionally respected as shop owners. Her application was rejected twice by the Department of Food and Civil Supplies, but she didn’t lose hope and kept on applying. When her third try was successful, the villagers slowly started to come around, respecting her initiative.
In April 2018, the Government of Madhya Pradesh, with technical support from Nutrition International, introduced double-fortified salt (DFS) in all the fair price shops of 89 tribal blocks across 20 districts. DFS is fortified with iodine, which is critical for healthy brain development, and iron, which offers protection against iron-deficiency anaemia. When Anita’s shop opened in July, Nutrition International provided her with on-the-job training so she could explain the benefits of DFS to the community and resolve any concerns they had.
Most of the questions Anita received were about the colour of the salt. Previously, the villagers had received iodized salt. When DFS became available, they were confused about the appearance of black granules throughout the salt and assumed they were flecks of mud. Although she initially thought the same, Anita learned in her training that this was the iron – the extra micronutrient used to fortify the salt. She handled the villagers’ questions and explained that consuming DFS was important for their health.
“If the colour of the vegetable changes on cooking, then it is alright since the salt has a beneficial substance that causes the color change,” she tells them. “Also, salt should be added at the end of cooking and not at the beginning.”
She has become an emphatic champion for DFS and encourages everyone in the village to regularly procure and consume it. As a result of her efforts, more than 90% of her customers now consume DFS.
Anita’s entrepreneurial spirit has helped to ensure the people in her village are getting the nutrition they need, while ensuring she can realize her goal of financial stability. She now supports her mother and all her nieces and nephews, demonstrating what a woman from her village can accomplish through hard work and dedication.