An article that has been published in the IDR, today reads that thousands of rural women in India in a pilot project almost thirty years after the 1993 Latur Earthquake became the facilitators between their communities and the government joining hands together for the rehabilitation work. They have formed a community and have stood by together all these thirty years surpassing the cyclones, earthquakes, Tsunamis, droughts, and most recently the pandemic.
The organization, SwayamShikshanPrayog which had formed out of a pilot project in Latur, Marathwada was registered in 1998. Late PremaGopalan who was the founder of it and also a social activist used to always believe in the fact that crisis brought women an opportunity for incorporating leadership roles in the community. Now, the project that was started by SSP has 5,000 women who are working as change agents at the grassroots level. Sakhis or friends as they are popularly called have been able to empower 3,00,000 women as farmers, entrepreneurs, and community leaders as well.
Taking a stand against climate change these Sakhis have once again come out to the frontline all across rural India. Maharashtra’s Marathwada which is infamously popular for farmer suicides has been promoted for one-acre farming for small and marginal women by these Sakhis. The women who have become a part of this project in Maharashtra are now able to see a crop yield of 25%. Even during the seasons of droughts and the phase of pandemic, the farmers here were able to yield crops and sustain feeding their families too from these small yet productive lands.
A Project That Is By The Women, Meant For The Women
These SSP Sakhisare very responsive to the diverse needs of the communities. They work tirelessly stretching their own limits yet making sure about bringing development to the community. The core objective of their work has always been to bring forward rural women to the broader sector empowering them with more public roles. NaseemShaik, who happens to be the associate director of SSP says of having seen women taking up leadership roles on their own in the different disaster-hit areas and have helped the people, children, and animals to survive.
Even in the farming sector, these women took up control when the men folks moved towards nonfarming jobs. But sadly, these women have always been seen as mere laborers and not as farm owners. They were even not made a part of any decision-making process of the farms. SSP had worked over the past few years into changing this mentality. In the last ten years, they have helped over 75,000 women warmers to be bold enough and negotiate with the other male members of their families for giving them respectable positions and titles. Some women even had taken bigger lands on lease from the farmers to cultivate on their own and also develop their identities as farmers and not laborers any longer. The project is still on as more and more women with the support of the SSP Sakhis are able to take up leadership roles across different sectors of society and trying to create their own independence and identity as well. Now no longer they are just surviving but surviving, thriving, and living with dignity.