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Awards

Recipient of Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development Award presented in Philippines.

Recipient of Krishi Bushan Award by Government of Maharashtra.

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Chandrakala Bai

Twenty odd women farmers had made themselves comfortable in Chandrakalabai’s house. The purpose of the meeting was to interact with a Canadian journalist and tell her about their experiences with organic farming and self-help groups. Chandrakalabai’s house itself embodied the long way these women had come since they first decided to work together almost fifteen years ago. The room we were assembled in used to be Chandrakalabai’s house – bedroom, kitchen, storage – all in one. Today, she has three separate rooms. The structure opposite this room accommodates her kitchen, washing area and storeroom. She has also been able to buy land to construct a separate house for her only son.

As she talks about her work with IIRD, underlying all the statistics of the growth and savings of their women’s group, the loans and repayment mechanisms, micro-enterprise development procedures, is a story of true empowerment. The trajectory of Chandrakalabai’s IIRD career is similar to most other extension workers. The initial years involved pursuing women and convincing them to participate in their ‘bachat gat’, followed by women now approaching her to enroll them in the program themselves. Savings have gone from Rs. 10 per week to Rs. 100 per week and on and on. Today they keep accounts of amounts as high as Rs. 1,00,000!

It is when this empowerment in reflected in their lives outside of IIRD that one glimpses the depth of the change in the lives of the extension workers. Chandrakalabai was elected Sarpanch of her village about ten years ago. Back then there were four or five hand-pumps and no pipelines to supply water. And that was Chandrakalabai’s election platform. She promised to bring pipelines and tap water to the village and she fulfilled her promise!

Within a month of being elected she organized a rastaa roko to demand water supply for the village. She asked at least one representative from each household to come to the main road with empty ghadas and ranjans (water storing utensils) and block the road. Two trucks full of women and one truck full of men assembled and carried out the protest. A local MLA arrived at the scene and had them all arrested and taken to the police station. There they demanded that they be fed and the MLA obliged! Chandrakalabai clearly enjoys narrating this part of the story. After some discussion, the MLA said he would make water available and that they must stop their protest and go home. Chandrakalabai says proudly, ‘We said you brought us here and we have no way to go back.. you must pay for our way back.. we made them pay.

She did not stop here. It was not enough to hold the MLA accountable. The villagers had to play their part in ensuring water supply too. She collected Rs. 800 from all the households that wanted a personal tap and made sure everything was in place for construction. She credits IIRD with preparing her for the position of a Sarpanch and says that IIRD ‘came as a new dawn in her life.’

Chandrakalabai has experienced a lot of different things in life. Her native village, Lakhephal, was displaced in the construction of the Jayakwadi dam when she was in fifth standard. While her father moved to Dhorkin, she was sent to live with her uncle in Khultabad where she continued her schooling. She says life was easy at her uncle’s place as he was an influential person in his community. She was enrolled in school, but didn’t necessarily have to attend. She was then married into ...She was not accustomed to the hard work involved in farming and struggled in her initial years. She had a supportive mother-in-law and started working on the field with her, learning as she went. Today she successfully manages her six acre farm. She has educated her son and he is now a professor. Her house serves as a place where women congregate for farmers’ club meetings, bachat gat meetings or just evening tea. They discuss problems in the farm, techniques of organic farming, personal problems, share jokes, taunt each other and giggle over stories of their husbands. They seem to have taken control! Twenty odd women farmers had made themselves comfortable in Chandrakalabai’s house. The purpose of the meeting was to interact with a Canadian journalist and tell her about their experiences with organic farming and self-help groups. Chandrakalabai’s house itself embodied the long way these women had come since they first decided to work together almost fifteen years ago. The room we were assembled in used to be Chandrakalabai’s house – bedroom, kitchen, storage – all in one. Today, she has three separate rooms. The structure opposite this room accommodates her kitchen, washing area and storeroom. She has also been able to buy land to construct a separate house for her only son.

As she talks about her work with IIRD, underlying all the statistics of the growth and savings of their women’s group, the loans and repayment mechanisms, micro-enterprise development procedures, is a story of true empowerment. The trajectory of Chandrakalabai’s IIRD career is similar to most other extension workers. The initial years involved pursuing women and convincing them to participate in their ‘bachat gat’, followed by women now approaching her to enroll them in the program themselves. Savings have gone from Rs. 10 per week to Rs. 100 per week and on and on. Today they keep accounts of amounts as high as Rs. 1,00,000!

It is when this empowerment in reflected in their lives outside of IIRD that one glimpses the depth of the change in the lives of the extension workers. Chandrakalabai was elected Sarpanch of her village about ten years ago. Back then there were four or five hand-pumps and no pipelines to supply water. And that was Chandrakalabai’s election platform. She promised to bring pipelines and tap water to the village and she fulfilled her promise!

Within a month of being elected she organized a rastaa roko to demand water supply for the village. She asked at least one representative from each household to come to the main road with empty ghadas and ranjans (water storing utensils) and block the road. Two trucks full of women and one truck full of men assembled and carried out the protest. A local MLA arrived at the scene and had them all arrested and taken to the police station. There they demanded that they be fed and the MLA obliged! Chandrakalabai clearly enjoys narrating this part of the story. After some discussion, the MLA said he would make water available and that they must stop their protest and go home. Chandrakalabai says proudly, ‘We said you brought us here and we have no way to go back.. you must pay for our way back.. we made them pay.

She did not stop here. It was not enough to hold the MLA accountable. The villagers had to play their part in ensuring water supply too. She collected Rs. 800 from all the households that wanted a personal tap and made sure everything was in place for construction. She credits IIRD with preparing her for the position of a Sarpanch and says that IIRD ‘came as a new dawn in her life.’

Chandrakalabai has experienced a lot of different things in life. Her native village, Lakhephal, was displaced in the construction of the Jayakwadi dam when she was in fifth standard. While her father moved to Dhorkin, she was sent to live with her uncle in Khultabad where she continued her schooling. She says life was easy at her uncle’s place as he was an influential person in his community. She was enrolled in school, but didn’t necessarily have to attend. She was then married into ...She was not accustomed to the hard work involved in farming and struggled in her initial years. She had a supportive mother-in-law and started working on the field with her, learning as she went. Today she successfully manages her six acre farm. She has educated her son and he is now a professor. Her house serves as a place where women congregate for farmers’ club meetings, bachat gat meetings or just evening tea. They discuss problems in the farm, techniques of organic farming, personal problems, share jokes, taunt each other and giggle over stories of their husbands. They seem to have taken control!