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Women’s leadership in India

Balwadi grain contribution. PHOTO COURTESY DECCAN DEVELOPMENT SOCIETY

Balwadi grain contribution. PHOTO COURTESY DECCAN DEVELOPMENT SOCIETY

By Grace Lee Boggs
Special to the Michigan Citizen

In my last column, I called attention to the solutionary/ revolutionary role women play when one society is coming to an end and a new one is emerging because women’s work of raising and caring for home and family is ongoing. It never stops and it doesn’t count the hours.

This is what is happening in India today, according to an article by Frances Moore Lappe published in Common Dreams on Feb. 3. Lappe spoke with members of the Deccan Development Society network of 5,000 women farmers in 70 Indian villages who are ending hunger by growing organic, diverse food crops, while at the same time creating new lives of courage, dignity and inclusion.

When Lappe asked them what it was like 20 years ago, they replied:

“We were so poor that in the rainy season our hut floors would turn to mud and we had to pile up branches to sleep on. We were always hungry. We depended on government ration cards. Sometimes the big landowner would pay us for a job with some grains and that would be the only food for our children. We were so poor we had only one sari — not even a second one to change into when we bathe.

“My husband was a gambler, he was not ever here. I lived on sorghum and broken rice. Our life was dictated by bigger people. We had to suffer, even if they beat us. It was a dark time.

“Then we started meeting, talking. Every week now, at nine in the evening our sanghams (groups of women) come together and make decisions together. We tell each other our problems. If someone was abused, all of us go together to confront him. And now if there is a conflict in our village, they call on us. Through the sanghams, we’ve reclaimed the land. We don’t use any chemicals. We grow as many as 25 crops on an acre or two.”

The movement has grown exponentially because the women film their activities to spread the word to a largely illiterate population.

Contact Grace Lee Boggs at boggscenter@boggscenter.org

 

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