Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.Taking Action Chaudhary doesn't just talk about empowering women, she also leads a women's group, the Saljhundi Forest Committee, which focuses on family planning and forest conservation. Three times a month, the group holds training programs for about 60 women from the local area. The women plant trees and learn about improvised bio-gas stoves that use cow dung instead of firewood for fuel. Chaudhary advises women on the various methods of contraception available and the advantages of spacing pregnancies and choosing family size. She tells them about her own two children, and how she has struggled to provide for them during the recent hard times. "With an increase in population, everything gets affected," she says. "If there are more kids, the mother has to suffer more than the father. The impact is felt on education, health and other sectors as well. So, one has to give birth to only as many children as one wants." With most women, she doesn't have to say much. More and more, they come up to her asking for contraceptives and telling her about their problems. While the older generation of women in her village typically had 10 to 12 children, among younger people, there are rarely more than four per household. Chaudhary sees great potential in the women in her group to improve their own lives and also to help preserve the forest. She is committed to making sure it will still be there for her children, and possible grandchildren. Still, she sometimes can't help but worry about the future. "The environment is closely knit with the life of man," she says. "When we are experiencing so much change now, what is going to happen to the future generation? Danielle Zielinski is a communications specialist at Population Action International, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit organization that advocates for women and families to have access to contraception in order to improve their health, reduce poverty and protect their environment.
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