Little Known Stars Of 2013
Little Known Stars Of 2013. Many women came into greater prominence in 2013, whether it was Angela Merkel of Germany or Sonia Gandhi and Vasundhara...
Many women came into greater prominence in 2013, whether it was Angela Merkel of Germany or Sonia Gandhi and Vasundhara Raje Scindia closer home. But forgotten in the rush of news coverage focused on established personalities are significant if little noticed figures who have, in their own distinctive ways, made a difference to their communities or audiences over the last 12 months. Here are the stories of five of them: a student footballer, a woman ‘mukhiya’ (head) of a village, a woman crematorium worker, a nutritional scientist and a woman who has taken it upon herself to guard the forests.
Bend It Like Saurabhi
Saurabhi Rabha would have been just another girl in a sleepy hamlet called Natun Batabari in Rani, some 35 kilometres from Guwahati, Assam, if she had not started to play soccer two years ago. She and her friends have had to brave numerous odds, including the stigma meted out by a patriarchal society as well as insults from the people of their own village.
But these energetic young women, most of whom are from poor families, stuck to their game and rebuffed the derogatory comments that came their way to reach their goal, quite literally.
It all began when a group of 30-odd girls, studying at various local schools, had got together to play soccer on a sunny afternoon in 2010. They approached Hem Das, a veteran Guwahati-based coach who had represented the state at various national level tournaments in the 1970s and 1980s.
Thanks to Das’s hard work as a coach, this daughter of a single mother of limited means could get to represent her state at national level soccer tourneys in 2013.
- Abdul Gani
Woman Power in Jharkhand
Despite a promising career in the law, Dorothiya Dayamani Ekka opted to work for the development of her village. She had completed her bachelor’s degree in law from Ranchi University, Jharkhand, and had been inducted into the Ranchi Bar Association. She had even applied for a seat to pursue a Master’s degree in law when she decided to give it all up and tread a different path. Having contested the panchayat elections from Ara village in the Namkum block of Ranchi district in 2011, Dorothiya is now the ‘mukhiya’ (village head) of Ara and is focused on providing sustainable employment for the women of the village.
“We are working to develop small operational business models that will prove profitable for this village,” she explains.
If the outstanding work of grassroots leaders like Dorothiya is any indication, then women leaders are bound to outnumber their male counterparts in the years ahead.
- Saadia Azim
Shanti, Lighter Of Pyres
There's nothing extraordinary about the way she looks. Yet, Shanti Behera, 52, a resident of Sambalpur, is unique. For the last decade she has been running the local crematorium. According to traditional Hindu customs, women are not even allowed to go to a crematorium and participate in the funeral rites. But compelled to provide two square meals for her family after the demise of her husband, Shanti willingly took on the job of being the full-time keeper at the Kamlibatar Rajghat crematorium.
There were several personal as well as social hurdles to cross. Initially, it was not easy for her to look at the dead bodies being brought to the crematorium. She also faced opposition from her relatives for daring to go against tradition. But Shanti grew stronger as time passed.
Behera's job is certainly not for the faint-hearted. Starting with arranging the wood for the pyre, setting it alight, and ensuring that it burnt properly, she does it all. But she has demonstrated that, given the right opportunity and support, a woman – although she may be poor and barely literate – can do anything.
- Sarada Lahangir
Scientist Sarla Has A Taste For Nutrition
In 2007, the district administration of Baran in southeastern Rajasthan was faced with a dilemma. With local farmers on the verge of giving up the cultivation of amla, or Indian gooseberry, they were at a complete loss as to how to prevent this trend. That’s when a local food and nutrition scientist came up with a plan. She proposed that amla be distributed as part of the mid-day meal for children in primary schools. As gooseberry, a sour fruit rich in Vitamin C, couldn’t be consumed raw, she recommended it be processed as candy, murabba (compote) and laddus (Indian sweetmeat). To deliver on this idea, she advocated the involvement of women self help groups (SHGs) for processing and distribution.
Her idea ended up serving multiple purposes – not only did it boost amla production; it ensured critical nutrition for children and gave women a shot at self-reliance.
This talented agri-scientist also has a yen for technology. She developed a post-harvest unit to process garlic using solar energy. The technique has enabled the garlic farmers of Anta to value-add their produce and connect with the international market.
- Rakesh Kumar
Hara Dei’s Forest Vigil
Sinapalli may be a small block in the Nuapada district of Odisha, but its thick forest cover attracts many a nature lover. Venture towards this verdant wilderness and from among the trees could emerge a fierce, middle-aged woman armed with an axe on her shoulder. This is Hara Dei Majhi, 55, the protector of this ‘dongar’ (hillock).
The illiterate tribal woman has been keeping a sharp vigil over these 11.25 acres of forest land for over three decades now. After all this, according to her, is the “legacy of my late husband”. It was Majhi’s husband, Anang, who had initiated the process of planting trees on what was once a barren patch of land at the foothills of Kapsi Dongar. A dedicated conservationist, he understood the vital role forests played in maintaining a balance in the local eco-system.
Recalls Majhi, “In the beginning, I was not involved in his work. As we were poor, we depended on minor forest produce and tendu leaves to keep our home fires burning. However, due to gradual deforestation our livelihood was affected and we had to become daily wage labourers to feed ourselves.” According to Majhi there are two major threats to the forests: forest fires and timber thieves and, over the years, she has been able to counter them as far as is humanly possible.
Sarat Chandra Panda, District Forest Officer, Khariar Forest Division, is all praise for her, “I have seen many groups protecting the forest in Odisha during my career but Hara Dei is unique. Her dedication and love for nature has inspired many villages in the region to form Van Surakshya Samitees (VSSs) to save the forest. Even the incidence of forest fires in our block has decreased by 50 per cent in the last five years.”
- Sarada Lahangir