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How A 40-Yr-Old Mother Of 3 Cycled Through Bihar To Turn Village Housewives Into Women Farmers

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In the male-dominated field of agriculture in India, a woman changed the way everyone perceives the profession. Fighting all odds and stereotypes, she not only became self-reliant but also empowered more than 360 women to do and be so. Rajkumari Devi of Muzaffarpur, Bihar, popularly known as ‘Kisan Chachi’ (Farmer Aunt) and ‘Cycle Chachi’ (Cycle Aunt), was one among the 21 women awardees of 2019 Padma Awards. Efforts For Good presents her incredible story.

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Everything has a solution

At the age of 12, Rajkumari Devi became a bride and set foot into a farming family in a small village in Muzaffarpur, Bihar, where tobacco was predominantly grown and sold, reports The Hindu Business Line. Troubles soon ensued for her in the family, as she failed to bear any children. Years later, when she became the mother of two girls and a boy, it led to the division of property by her father-in-law for whom Rajkumari’s daughters were an undesirable burden.

With some land in hand and three kids to feed and tend to, Rajkumari Devi jumped in to assist her husband in the tobacco farm. She toiled hard on the farm while her husband was away to sell tobacco. This exposure helped her learn the nitty-gritty of farming. As a mother, she donned the role of a farmer to provide a better future for her kids against all opposition from her in-laws and husband. They dissuaded her as they were concerned about the societal restraints, as no woman before had ever become a farmer in their village. Rajkumari found a solution for herself. She decided to work after sunset when no one can see her, states Business Standard.

There is no end to learning

Even with familiar problems after her marriage, a determined Rajkumari Devi strived to complete her schooling. Through education, she realised the harmful effects of cultivating and using tobacco. She was successful in persuading her husband to allow her to grow fruits and vegetables in their land. The first crop of potatoes turned a disaster due to annual flooding which made her learn to grow different plants in low-lying areas. This marked the beginning of her successful farming career which inspired many, including her husband who thereafter encouraged her in every step.

Efforts to do good

Seeing the way farming had changed her own life, Rajkumari Devi was keen to share her knowledge and experience with other women, urging them to come out and help their families to be financially well. However, working on the farm and managing household chores left Rajkumari little time to do so. This is when she learnt to ride a bicycle to travel from village to village, convincing the womenfolk to join her in farming. The practice earned her the name ‘Cycle Chachi’. She was forty years old at that time.

Though she initially faced disapproval from the community, her zeal persisted, and her success silenced all criticism. Soon, she came to be hailed as everyone’s beloved ‘Kisan Chachi’.

Her efforts have been instrumental in forming Self Help Groups (SHGs) and empowering women to be independent through farming. She was conferred Kisan Shri Award by Bihar government, was lauded personally by the Chief Ministers of Bihar and Gujarat.

Decisions determine destiny

Learning that farmers earn less on their raw produce, Kisan Chachi has turned entrepreneur. She deduced that by selling a kilogram of potatoes, farmers earn only 10 rupees whereas a packet of potato chips would fetch them 20-30 rupees. A businessperson would make at least 40-50 rupees on the same. She thus decided to procure the raw material from the women farmers of the SHGs and employed other women to assist her in converting the produce to jams, pickles and processed foods. Her indigenous products became widely known in the metropolitan cities for their quality, thus putting the small town of Muzaffarpur on the national map. She is now an advocate for farming and women empowerment.

Kisan Chachi is an exemplary personality who showed how grit and sincere work can change the destiny of a person and the people around. Her Padma Shri award does justice to her incredible contribution and achievements. She continues to empower individuals and the society proving why simplicity, yearning, learning and hard work are the keys to success.


Written by: Janusha Pulla (Intern)

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Goonj Is Working With 1000’s Of Volunteers & Partner NGOs To Provide Covid-19 Relief In 18 States

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With the extension of the lockdown the crisis of migrant labourers and daily wagers has just grown bigger due to uncertainty and fear of future. In the migrant colonies, slums and for people in the villages hunger and desperation is building up day by day. This is high time we step up our efforts to support our people who are in dire need of food and hygiene essentials to survive the pandemic, Covid-19.

After the India-wide lockdown, a lot of jobless migrant workers are stuck in cities with hardly any resources while many started retreating back to their villages. With the loss of livelihoods, a large number of them are now struggling to support their families.

Goonj activated its pan India teams and a pan India network of partner organizations and volunteers in urban and rural India. This network, built over the last two decades, helps them learn from the ground, reach material quickly and review and adapt strategy periodically. Intensifying this network has helped Goonj reach and start work across 17produced states/UT in the last three weeks.
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2,00,000 meals served

KHAANACHAHIYE: Fighting Hunger In COVID19

95,49,369 Raised
Out of 1,00,00,000

Share

Goonj’s focus: 

Majority of the Covid-19 relief work by non profits right now is in the metros and cities but Goonj is the only non profit that is also simultaneously focusing on the people in the villages and the ones stuck on highways or somewhere.

Goonj is targeting daily wagers, migrants and other vulnerable groups, who even traditionally are left out like the disabled, sex workers, LGBTQ community.

“COVID-19 is a crisis, yes…But, it’s also an opportunity for us to build the society anew. Not ‘for’ the people…but, ‘with’ the people. And in the process, we will build ourselves too.” – Anshu Gupta, Founder-Director, Goonj.

Direct Monetary and Material Transfer

Wherever Goonj got the permission to open their centres for packing and disbursement of relief material kits, they are creating a kit consisting of 20-30 kgs material including dry rations, masks, sanitary pads and other hygiene material and reaching them to people, as per needs and as per regulations with all safety precautions. This kit will help a family survive for 30 days.

Information till 10th April 2020:

  • Distributed 15,100 ration kits reaching thousands of people
  • Reached 17,700 families
  • Supporting 12 community kitchen across India with 16,600kgs of ration
  • 77,800 food packets provided to migrant laborers and daily wagers walking on the roads across the country.
  • Provided direct financial support to 32 organisations
  • Made 42,800 cloth face masks
  • 24,900 cloth sanitary napkins produced
  • Produced 1500 litres of organic sanitiser

In Goonj’s processing centers its trained team of women are making cloth face masks and cloth sanitary pads (MY-Pads), keeping all the precautions and with the permission and cooperation of the local authorities.

In this lock-down phase if you are facing any difficulty getting sanitary pads or you are running out of stock, here’s a detailed but very simple process of making Cloth Pads at home created by Goonj. “This is how we make Goonj MY Pads.” This is how our mothers and grandmothers turned their spare cloth into pads.

This disaster, unlike any other, is unprecedented in its scale and impact and that’s why we all must do our bit with Goonj to continue its relief work for millions of people in this still unfolding long-tailed disaster.

The need is huge.. We are there.. Need You too !!

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Quote
It's not how much we give
but how much love we put into giving.
- Mother Theresa Quote
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