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Inspiration from the hinterland

The Times of India | Sep 13, 2015

Shanti Tekam's journey from the forests of Balaghat, Madhya Pradesh, to the capital reflects her effort to keep the rural economy running when thousands of loss-stricken farmers are forced to leave their lands and migrate to cities.

Standing among awardees in business suits was Shanti, a 40-year-old woman and a mother of four from Amoli village. She had received the award on behalf of her community , instrumental in building the resilience of rural areas in tackling challenges arising out of climate change.

Shanti is one of the initiators of a women's organization that started as a self-help group and is now key to harnessing the village economy .

She and members of the Nari Shakti Sangathan started this group in 2009 roping in women from their village to pool their savings. "We began by saving Rs10 a week. Gradually , we realized the potency of such a model, so we invited four to five similar groups from other villages and established a larger body where savings was not our sole objective. We discussed issues and worked towards getting women to take part in economic activities and decision making." she says They got 70 women from different villages to participate in these groups that, like a gram sabha, shared thoughts and raised concerns about the progress of the village. They raised their voice against domestic violence.

With frequent monthly meetings and more savings, the group started inviting representatives from government departments like women and child welfare. They organized meetings with the panchayat to discuss and understand government policies. "These interaction made us realize that there was a need to boost the economy of our village. So we shifted focus to land, forest and water and became a part of the Mahila Kisan Sashaktikaran Pariyojana." Under this programme, they got step dams built. They learned the use of manure and vermicomposting.

"Soon, we were able to produce good quality grain and vegetables. We avoided chemical pesticides because they damaged land quality ," says Shanti.

The group encouraged others of neighbouring villages to take part in these activities rather than doing odd jobs in other places.

Source: Inspiration from the hinterland