With a motive of attaining a potential pathway to achieving gender equality, MSSRF marked International Women’s Day 2022 by saluting women leadership and recognizing their role in agricultural development. The events across MSSRF offices highlighted the fact that women were and are change-makers empowering opportunities for a sustainable tomorrow. MSSRF gathered change-makers from around the country to encourage and stimulate the essence of leadership among women.
At Chennai, Prof M.S. Swaminathan, Founder – MSSRF graced the occasion with special remarks, while Prof Nitya Rao, Gender and Development & Director- NISD, University of East Anglia, UK set the context. The event witnessed both online and offline participation from across the country. Change-makers from rural communities were invited to speak on the occasion of IWD to talk about their journey and inspiration to take on leadership roles in society.
“Men and Women are one,” observed Prof Swaminathan, “they are genetically the same, but we forget this due to social construct.” He added that it was essential for everyone to work together to achieve a sustainable future for the country and stressed on the importance of the woman’s role toward an equal world.
Welcoming the audience, Dr G N Hariharan reflected on MSSRF observing IWD every year to recognize and appreciate the effort of rural women while highlighting the importance of empowerment.
“The main purpose is to recognize equality, and IWD is about celebrating solidarity of collective action,” Dr Nitya Rao expressed. She iterated that ‘we’ as a society are together in this struggle for recognition and equality, and that it is time for societal change. “Give women the enabling environment and support to sustain,” she emphasized.
Raimati, Board of Director, Bamandei FPC, Nuaguda Village in Odisha, spoke about how the cultivation methods and training programs of MSSRF helped her contribute toward bettering agricultural development in her village by encouraging farmers to adopt improved farming techniques. “I began as a SHG member, and today I hold a position of authority that enables me to share benefits of using organic farming, conservation and SRI method of rice cultivation with farmer-members,” Raimati said.
“I own four acres of land, and harvest various varieties of rice and millets,” said Sangeetha, President of the Nallamur FPC in Villupuram district, Tamil Nadu. She goes to explain that although women manage 90% of the workload from sowing to marketing the produce, they do not get the recognition they deserve. “The villagers mocked me because I was trying to stand up for my rights, but I continued to push forward and work hard.” Sangeetha shared that only after toiling for a long time could she and the other women-members of Nallamur FPC make a turnover of 50 lakhs. “We aspire to make it one crore in the near future!” smiled Sangeetha.
Talking to the audience from Puducherry, Muthulakshmi – Board Member with Innuyur Garma Sagam said, “I was even timid to travel on my own, take a bus, pick a phone call…now I have changed.” Muthulakshmi was forced to be the breadwinner for her family after a tragic accident maimed her husband and took away her daughter. She explained how the livelihood trainings she received from MSSRF empowered her to make a decent living. “Currently, I help around 13 SHGs to progress in terms of knowledge and opportunities,” she added.
“The fishing community I come from faces livelihood hardships every day, and I strive to improve the situation for all us,” shares Sharmila, who is the Leader of the Fisherwomen Co-operative Society in Nagapattinam. Exorbitant interest rates on loans and raw material costs, including spiraling diesel prices have reduced profit margins for the fisherfolk. “Fishing is all we know, and the 200 families living here totally depended on income from selling fish,” explains Sharmila, adding that COVID-related restrictions only made life more difficult for the community. “Fortunately, MSSRF helped us to solve the problems of storage and loan procurements.”
Devaki is Secretary of Adivasi Vikasana Pravarthak Samathi in Wayanad. She spoke about her work in conserving traditional seeds and in ensuring farmer rights. “We work with unity to conserve the livelihood of the tribal community in Waynad district, and we have made it our major responsibility to protect traditional seed varieties and farming techniques,” Devaki emphasized. The community have been managing several socio-economic challenges including man and animal conflict that threatens their lives and livelihood. “I have always faced discrimination because I am a woman coming from a tribal community, and I have to force others to recognize my work and achievements,” she remarks, “but I never let other people’s opinions influence me and that is why I am successful.”
The event ended with Dr. R Rengalakshmi, Director Ecotechnology, MSSRF summing up the insights of the change-makers. Ms. Sangeetha Rajeesh, Director of Communication, MSSRF delivered the vote of thanks.
To show solidarity on IWD, staff at MSSRF Chennai expressed their support with signing against hashtags #HearHer #BreakTheGenderBiasTogether #WomenChangeMakers #WeAreEqual. The photograph is representing MSSRF united to #BreakBiasTogether
Biju Patnaik Tribal Agro-biodiversity Centre of MSSRF Jeypore observed IWD under the project of strengthening livelihoods and enhancing food and Nutrition Security of small and marginal farmers in Koraput District, Odisha.
Mrs. K.M. Mohanty, an educationist and Director, Modern English School, Jeypore, Dr. Gayatri Devi, Special Public Prosecutor, POCSO Cell, Jeypore and Ms. Pratima Sahu, Asst. Professor, Department of Teacher Education, V. D. Autonomous College, Jeypore graced the event. The dignitaries launched the nutrition awareness calendar, 2022. The programme was chaired by Dr. M. M. Hossain, Director, BPTAbC, MSSRF, Jeypore and facilitated by the team of Jeypore Centre.
The women leaders, Mrs. K.M. Mohanty, educationist, Director, Modern English School, Jeypore, Smt. Sandhyarani Patnaik, ICDS Worker, Dalapur, Koraput, Smt. Daimati Muduli, ICDS Worker, B. Majhigud, Koraput, Smt. Dali Khemabadia, ICDS Worker, Mathapada-II, Koraput, Smt. Raila Harijan, Community Hunger Fighter, Tentulipadar, Koraput, Smt. Ghasa Dalei, Community Hunger Fighter, Banuaguda, Koraput, Smt. Raimati Ghiuria, Board of Director, Bamandei, Producer Company Ltd., Nuaguda, Kundra, Kundra, Smt. Dalimba Khillo, Board of Director Kachela Agro-product Pvt. Ltd, Kachela, Koraput were recognized for their outstanding contributions to the society.
The MSSRF Kannivadi staff in Dindugal district, organised an interaction with men and women farmers to commentate International Women’s Day 2022. The Deputy Director of the Farmers Training Centre, Agriculture officer, and Asst. Director of Agriculture joined the gathering to wish the women farmers on this special occasion.