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Rural women near Mangaldoi river in Assam show a way to bring change through collective efforts

Dotting the shore of the Mangaldoi River, Chandowalpara and Gaurapuri village inside the Darrang district of Assam seem like any idyllic neighbourhood in which the tranquillity of the inexperienced meets the simplicity of rural life. Yet behind the veneer, there existed a communal relationship fraught with distrust and resentment. This bitterness between the two villages had its roots in a feud over organizing a kirtan (a non secular cultural gathering). One village turned into now not invited. Small matters piled on and eventually it reached a point whilst the communities stopped altogether speakme to every other.  This changed into numerous years returned.

Fast forward to the 12 months 2019 – 18 women representatives of different Self Help Groups (SHGs) from 5 specific village hamlet, consisting of Chandowalpara and Gaurapuri, take a seat in a circle inside the commonplace ground. The assembly begins with a prayer with the start and finishing invoking the Almighty. Interspersed among are words like solidarity and togetherness.

When NGO SeSTA (Seven Sisters Development Assistance) within the yr 2017, underneath the ITC MSK venture collectivized the girls of close by villages into an Agriculture Business Centre (ABC) version, there was a murmur of resistance from the groups of Chandowalpara and Gaurapuri.  But the dire need of investment on each mechanisation and new generation to preserve farming sustainable positioned vintage hostilities to the back burner. By the time, family based totally livelihoods planning, beneath the auspices of ABC was accomplished, ladies who had kept away from every other for years spoke directly for the first time. Barriers melted as swiftly as they were erected.

166 Baideus or women/sister from five exclusive hamlets/villages are associated with this ABC and earlier than long they found out the energy of their collectives. So many girls coming together have been a force to be reckoned with and that they determined to check their mettle.

The earthen street connecting the 2 erstwhile warring hamlets to the rest of the sector had massive holes and resembled a paddy area after very rainy. They wanted the road trouble to be resolved. As a primary line of protest they ironically organized a street block by way of planting paddy saplings. This become blanketed in the neighborhood press but there has been no movement.

There had been numerous different court cases filed.  But success eluded them.

There changed into, although an alternate sweeping thru these villages- ladies were popping out of their homes and speakme out. With every assembly of ABC, with every new agriculture talent learnt and with every making plans exercise, they grew in confidence. And whilst after a burst of early monsoon bathe, they were pressured to pull their saris to the knees to avoid the soggy darkish mud, that they had enough. Sixty women from Chandowalparaand Gaurapuri reached the workplace of the MLA. They have been now not backing down. A street become subsequently sanctioned and the construction was supervised and achieved via the women of these two villages.

Much has modified today but the combat for a higher tomorrow persists for those ladies. Road equivalent to “muddy crater of the moon” has been replaced by means of a miles higher avenue. The antagonism between the two hamlets/villages has not only disappeared however is an issue of societal amnesia. Introduction of farm machinery and technology has drastically reinforced livelihoods. And women had been at the forefront of this variation. Once per week, they pass round analyzing and cleansing their village surrounding.

“Only a few years lower back, most effective men in our houses had reviews. Now we communicate out loud,” saysAnjuBaideu.

When some local goon stalled the work on the road for some hours, more than a hundred ladies reached the spot.

“Seeing so many off us, he fled the spot without even speaking to us,” laughs Narmada.

Bordering mild sexism, Minotti Baidu remarks, “We are the men now”

And whilst this draws a heartily snigger, RenukaBaideu solemnly ads, “We need to make this village a model village in Assam”

At this, there may be no chortle; only silent nodding with a consciousness that there is nevertheless an extended way to head.

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