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Odisha’s Woman Farmer Now An MP: Her Journey From A Child Bride To Anganwadi Cook To Being A Parliamentarian

Image credit: Gram Vikas

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While political A-listers all over India gear up to start their terms as newly elected MPs in the parliament, a 68-year-old woman farmer from Odisha is also on her way to Sansad Marg in Delhi, ready to prove her mettle in the dominion of Indian democracy, much as she did for her small village.

Pramila Bisoi is the new Biju Janata Dal (BJD) MP from Aska constituency in Odisha who has brought forth incredible development in the nondescript villages of her constituency, away from all mainstream media limelight. Today, as everyone’s beloved ‘mausi’ (aunty) from Chermaria village acquires a much-deserved political honour, Efforts For Good looks back at Pramila Bisoi’s astounding contribution in the past two decades that propelled her landslide victory with 55% of the total votes in the 2019 Lok Sabha Election.

No one has ever become poor by giving
– Anne Frank

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A small farmer with one-acre land

“I have known Pramila since the early 2000s. She was a prominent leader of the women’s self-help group in Chermaria, set up under Mission Shakti – a developmental project started by the Odisha government. She has always been at the forefront of every movement in the village – be it proper water supply or afforestation or toilets for all,” shares Liby Johnson, Executive Director of Gram Vikas, 40-year-old Odisha-based NGO which worked closely with Pramila Bisoi.

Bisoi is a small-scale farmer with a meagre landholding of just one acre. She has been a child bride once, married off at the tender age of five. Inevitably, her schooling ended soon at Class 3. She had a paltry income working as a cook at the nearest Anganwadi. At the same time, she started attending the local self-help group actively and soon emerged into prominence for her excellent leadership skills and an indomitable grit. For the inhabitants of Chermaria and adjoining villages, Pramila Bisoi has been a true guardian angel for the last 18 years.

When men mocked, she gathered women to drive the change

The men in these underdeveloped villages are often averse, or simply indolent towards a progressive project like piped water supply or toilet construction. “They would brush off the need for a washroom as redundant, as it was alright with men to bathe in the open,” admits Liby Johnson.

Pramila narrates how she finally triumphed these issues, “The womenfolk had to walk for miles to the river every day for fetching water. It was exhausting for them, especially during the scorching summer months. The crops were also suffering due to water scarcity. So, naturally, all the women desperately sought a proper water supply inside the village. The men ridiculed us for wanting piped water supply,” she shares.

Pramila stood firm on her ground. The men were not willing to join the movement, so she organised meetings with the women. “Let the men not attend. We will set it up,” she declared to her army of feisty women.

After a few fruitful meeting sessions, the men changed their mind and decided to join the cause, convinced by Pramila’s brilliant efforts. Eventually, every home in Chermaria had water taps and tanks. Water was also arranged for irrigation. The sanitation issue followed an almost identical trajectory. If people in Aska are now comfortably using toilets, they have Pramila Bisoi to thank.

A true flagbearer of change

“Pramila Ji took the leadership in mobilising the village women and got them to take up the onus of change,” asserts Liby Johnson, highlighting how she has been a flagbearer of development.

“Our village had a river on one side and a barren, rocky mountain on the other. There were not enough trees. We were determined to get more trees,” recalls Pramila, expressing an iron determination.

She did not hesitate to invite the whos who of administrative power for achieving the objective. The District Forest Officer, the Forest Ranger and other officials responded to Pramila’s call for a meeting and promptly consented to lend their support.

So, they got the seeds and saplings, and the men and women started the plantation. Now, Chermaria has an extensive grove to boast of.

Pramila’s rise to eminence has been phenomenal and she has been awarded time and again for her exceptional initiatives of development – but everything in a sustainable way. When the Odisha chief minister fielded her from a crucial Parliamentary constituency over and above several political heavyweights, disappointment and concern were muttered from all levels. The opposition tried to disparage her by pinpointing her educational and socio-economic status, but the citizens who revered their mausi beyond questions were not easy to be swayed. And, the result is evident, as Pramila has managed to make her place in the coveted seats of arguably the world’s greatest democracy.

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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

94,06,607 Raised
Out of 1,00,00,000

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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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