Ahmedabad, Aug. 6: For years they have rented out their wombs, now surrogate moms are set to give birth to something they can call their own.
Some hundred surrogate mothers will meet tomorrow in Anand, India’s milk capital, to form a co-operative that will give them a voice and a “platform” for the future, when they will no longer be sought after by couples who cannot have children.
The aim is to “provide them with a credible platform”, says Dr Naina Patel, a pioneer in surrogacy in the country and the brain behind the idea.
Patel, whose Akanksha IVF Clinic popularised surrogacy in the Gujarat city, said most of these women came from poor backgrounds and offered their wombs in return for money that helps them build homes, pay off debts or educate their children.
“But they need a regular income, they cannot go on renting their wombs,” she said, explaining that the co-operative would help them learn different skills they can put to use later to earn money.
So what prompted the idea?
The cue apparently came from the milk co-operative movement in Anand, started decades ago, that calved an internationally renowned brand called Amul, the acronym for Anand Milk Union Limited.
Operation Flood, also called the White Revolution, started by the National Dairy Development Board some 40 years ago, helped dairy farmers shape their own development.
Patel wants surrogate mothers also to shape their lives. So she came up with the idea of the co-operative, the first of its kind in the country.
Tomorrow, the 100-odd surrogate moms will meet in the central Gujarat town, 70km from Ahmedabad, to “decide policy” and form the co-operative society.
It’s a “long-cherished dream”, says Patel, who has featured on the Oprah Winfrey show for her pioneering efforts that put Anand on the world’s surrogacy map.
Thanks to her popularity and her clinic, surrogacy has become a thriving business in Anand district, also known as the surrogacy capital of India.
Patel’s efforts have to a great extent helped change the way surrogate mothers were looked upon till recently. Today, there are 500 women in and around Anand alone who have lent their wombs for a fee — which is decided by the couples concerned and the doctor.
While no one was willing to disclose the going rates, the minimum amount charged some fours ago was Rs 2 lakh.
Patel said at tomorrow’s meeting, the women would finalise the modalities with local officials, including the district co-operative registrar. She said dignity was an important issue, as surrogate mothers were often looked down upon, and added the co-operative would create awareness about their contribution.
Patel will fund the initial corpus. Later, these surrogate moms will become shareholders and manage the society’s affairs to help it generate a regular income after developing vocational and marketing skills with the help of professionals.
Patel wants these women to be taught embroidery and to make toys so that they can earn at least Rs 150 a day to make them financially independent.
The co-operative will help them market their products — as entrepreneurs, not as substitutes.