Much has been talked about women empowerment in India’s rural areas and while there is a lot to achieve there, Manju Devi’s story is a stark reminder of how many of these women have been smashing stereotypes and working to uplift themselves and those around them in obscure villages.
A resident of Bihar’s Munger district, Manju was like many of her peers married off at a very young age, thus forcing her to forego her dream of becoming a teacher. Family life had become her focus but a chance encounter with some members of an NGO turned her life around. Her village Mudheri saw members from Oxfam India and SEWA Bharat come and discuss with community members the idea of a group of women farmers who can be trained for better productivity with new and improved farming techniques. Manju overcame her shyness and spoke to the group members, and they nudged her to take part in their meetings. In 2016, Manju finally decided to join the group.
Success followed Manju in her first year as she started working as a farmer, she made Rs 15,000 through growing tomatoes with a new technique. Success was an important step in giving the simple village woman a sense of independence and pride in herself. Her work was so well received that Manju soon became a community mobiliser for Jeevika- Bihar Rural Livelihoods Promotion Society and started helping the locals with their queries regarding farming.
Manju’s success story surged ahead and she even bought her own piece of land where she now makes an annual profit between Rs 60,000 to Rs 80,000. Manju has also been instrumental in encouraging scores of women to adopt these new and innovative and empowered dozens of women to adopt agro-ecological practices.
The Karnbhoomi Farmer Producer Company, started by SEWA Bharat and Oxfam India needed a leader for the team and Manju’s experience and success made her just the ideal person to become the President of the Farmers Producer Company (FPC).
Mnaju’s hard work and commitment towards agriculture has resulted in the villagers relying on her for seed selection, variety of crops among others. Manju in fact has also helped the community members in buying seeds at a much better deal from vendors.
Oxfam India’s CEO Amitabh Behar believes that such initiatives go a long way in helping to alleviate discrimination and help these marginalised sections of the society become self-reliant as well.
Manju now hopes that just like her, more and more women from her village and such situations would also find their path and empower themselves.
Read Manju Devi’s inspiring story here at Oxfam India.