‘A woman is a full circle, within her is the power to create, nurture and transform’- Diane Mariechild. Malliga Seerangan who is 35 years old and Jayalalitha Easwaran, who is 27 years old, had the power to change their lives in the situation of poverty and no education. They had to leave their education due to inadequate funds in the family. Their life journey starts from a remote village in Kolli Hills in Namakkal district of Tamil Nadu and both share a similar background. Their success story is an inspiring lesson for all the women of the country, especially those who are cut-off from the development. The unforgettable experience of success for both the women will surely bring a revolution in women empowerment.
Malliga and Jayalalitha are from a poor family of farmers and used to help their parents in the fields. They used to grow Millets, just enough for them to consume and nothing more than that. Other people in and around Kolli Hills used to do farming only and grow Ragi and Samai. Since there was no market for Millets, there was not much income from farming.
Then, 15-20 years ago, a small ray of hope rose in the village and MS Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) came to their village and helped all farmers with better techniques of cultivation as many of them had no knowledge of good farming practices. Farmers were also taught about the farming depending on the weather. This foundation also helped the villagers to start small self-help groups of men and women. The self-help groups were taught to pool small amounts of money and put it in the bank and each member of the group could take loan for farming and operate the account.
For producing several folds of different varieties of millets, special trainings were held due to which, now, six different varieties of Millets were being produced in the small region of 1500 farmers. MSSRF installed mills to grind Millets so that in less than half an hour, the powder is ready. The women were also taught to make different products of millets for sale purpose in attractive packing’s like Millet rice, Ragi, Murukku etc. People were being made aware of health benefits and that these products have high iron content and are excellent for good health.
All this transformations in Millet farming gave confidence to Malliga and Jayalalitha, even after their marriage, they didn’t beg for money from their husbands and had their own bank accounts. Their hard work and all the learning from MSSRF gave results and their Ragi powder, murukku powder, samai etc were available in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka under the Kolli Hills brand. All this changed the lives of both the ladies and were financially independent, giving their children better education and also earned respect as a woman in the village. Without anybody’s assistance, they take loan and also repay them. Even they talked about nutritive values of Millets to people.
These two women are a part of a self-help group supported by the MSSRF and promote bio diversity through family. They went to Milan to attend an event on agricultural bio-diversity, value chains and women’s empowerment organized by bio-diversity International. The event was organized to celebrate the women who grow, harvest, process, cook, buy or sell, a variety of food and agricultural products to sustain their families and contribute towards conservation of agricultural bio-diversity. MSSRF thought Malliga and Jayalalitha to be the right people to represent the event at Milan. The nutritious products made from Millets are sold through Kolli Hills agro biodiversity conserves federation (KHABCOFED) in attractive packs as organic food in nearby cities. MSSRF follows the four “C’s”: conservation, cultivation, consumption and commercialization. The first trip abroad to both of them played a key role in transforming their lives and highlight their achievements and motivate women of the villages to be Independent.
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