Reflections of women farmers: Programme for the empowerment of women farmers, Vidarbha (Mahila Kisan Sashaktikaran Pariyojana)

Reflections of women farmers: Programme for the empowerment of women farmers, Vidarbha (Mahila Kisan Sashaktikaran Pariyojana)

Vidarbha, the hot spot of agrarian crisis, has an unenviable record of suicides by farmers in recent decades. The crisis has accentuated the vulnerability of women farmers in general, and the widows of the farmers who have committed suicide in particular. Women farmers were unorganized and without any recognition as ‘farmers’ despite being engaged in farming and farm-related activities for sustenance. To address the specific problems faced by women farmers, and specifically widows of farmers who committed suicide, MSSRF initiated the Mahila Kisan Sashaktikaran Pariyojana (MKSP–-Programme for the Empowerment of Women Farmers) in Wardha and Yavatmal districts of the Vidarbha region in 2007.

The programme’s aims at empowering women farmers, through capacity building, enabling them to take well-informed decisions pertaining their lives and livelihoods. This would have two essential components; first, in relation to the creation of the very choice set; and the second, in terms of choosing and improving the available choice set. The programme is currently largely concerned with the second component whereby women farmers are trained to make better choices out of an extant, given choice set.

With a membership of over 3200 women farmers (210 samitis), spread across 60 villages in Wardha and Yavatmal districts, the MKSP is open to women from diverse caste groups and those from the most disadvantaged sections of the society.

This report is a compilation of different experiences and reflections of women farmers with respect to their engagement with the programme, the Mahila Kisan Sashaktikaran Pariyojana. This compilation reveals the enhanced capacities of the women farmers pertaining to a range of issues, such as:

  • Self-confidence and concerns for social issues that make women farmers challenge violence against women in the domestic arena;
  • Strength and energy that comes by being a part of a larger group, which makes them demand and discuss issues with officials on an equal footing;
  • Importance they attach to attending the Gram sabha and the power with which they put forth their views in the Gram sabha;
  • Conviction with which they adopt sustainable agriculture practices and slowly but consistently work towards getting their men folk to accept these practices;
  • Comprehension about agriculture–nutrition linkages and the vigour with which they grow food grains, vegetables and fruits for household consumption;
  • Correctness with which they demand the entitlements due to them and fellow villagers; and

Ability to think and act on larger issues.

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