This is a story of how a small plot of land can be instrumental in changing the lives of local women – strengthening her rights over her land, her living. This was a small programme, implemented for a group of 22 women in the working villages of Swadhina, India.
The programme was carried out in two remote villages of East Singbhum ,Jharkhand, in India, with support of SARRA- a member organisation of ILC, under the aegis of the National Engagement Strategy programmes of International Land Coalition between August 2015 to March 2016.
One of the main components of the programme was to develop kitchen gardens (called FAITH gardens) to ensure:
- Right to land and livelihood for women.
- Using land judiciously for livelihood as well as for providing nutrition to the family.
This was like a test-water case – an effort to gauge the mentality of the society in general towards women’s ownership of land plots.
Following a Training of Trainers, organised by SARRA and training for the selected beneficiaries, the Kitchen Gardens were developed. Though it would sound an easy task, it was extremely daunting , mostly because it is unheard of in the area that women could be owners of land – however small the plot may be.
Swadhina has been intensely engaged in sensitization programmes in the area for promoting women’s land rights. And it was much helpful for the women to convince their families to allot a piece of land for them.
Following this, sample maps were drawn to help the beneficiaries understand the position and space allotted for seed bed, fencing, open space to facilitate watering etc.
The training and a proto-type map of individual gardens, helped the women to mark out the seed beds/sapling area. They then went on to prepare the seed bed as per the training they received. Each of the Kitchen Garden were fenced with Bamboo pieces as pillars. Strong wire mesh-nets were used to reinforce the fencing. Not only was it interesting to see how the women came forward to engage themselves in activities ‘supposedly done by men’, it was equally interesting to see how the men of the families came forward to support their wives or daughters-in-law.
Over time the gardens became fully functional kitchen garden, filled with vegetables of high nutritional quality.
Recently during a visit by the Swadhina team, the women came forward to offer fresh grown vegetables – pumpkin, brinjal, red spinach from their ‘own’ garden, as a mark of gratitude for having helped them gain a new identity.
The small plot of land was a big leap for the local women in establishing their rights:
1) It helped establish the fact that woman DO have the right to own a piece of family land – however small or big.
2)It gave a scope to the families to be a part of the process of women’s right and access to land.
3)The gardens provided a source of direct nutrition to the women and their families.
4)Being located in the vicinity and in the control of women, these gardens ensured food security for the families.
5) Being nurtured by women, these gardens established the identity of women as able farmers.
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