Loading images...

Dukhanee Urao- A Tale of A Food Security Champ

September 1st, 2013 by Posted in Women's leadership

Asad Mohammed Asaduzzaman, Regional Logistics Coordinator, Oxfam Asia

Courtesy: Sugreeb Kumar Sarder, Pabitra Manda, Saikat Biswas
Photo: Saikat Biswas
 Dukhanee Urao with group members. Photo: Saikat Biswas

She can’t remember exactly when they had taken three times’ meal in a day. Her husband passed away leaving behind three kids and her. It wasn’t so easy to arrange foods for a family of five, including the husband, through the income of them both. One family member has been decreased now but it appears the total food consumption of the family had been increased due to growth of the three kids from infants to adolescents. Food with balanced nutrient value was beyond of thoughts but at least she needed something to feed them to keep energise the weak, spindle-shanked young bodies. Moreover, the eldest, who would be appearing the Secondary School Certificate examination needs something in the stomach so as her brain works properly. “What for is the education? Is the girl gonna be a judge or barrister?”- constant teasing from the neighborhood folks. “Oh no, what’s wrong if my child goes to school!”- she expressed her clear annoyance.

Dukhanee Urao, a widow of her mid 30’s of Dewanpur. There is a place named Hature in the sub district of Mahadevpur of Naogaon district, Dewanpur is a village of that Hature. It is to say, she isn’t Dukhini, what does mean a wretched in Bangla, but she is Dukhanee by name. After her husband left forever she could have thought of herself, which she didn’t indeed. She wasn’t only the mom to her three kids but was the dad as well. Thus, lack of earning opportunities made her worried but the hope of an immediate solution remains so far away.

This was the real life of Dukhanees. More or less one hundred fifty thousand people inhabit in the 11 sub districts of Naogaon district who have been often uncertain of their national identify. They are not only Uraos but also Saotal, Pahan, Bhuimali, Mahali Rajwan, Barman, Rabidash and a few other small ethnic population groups. Once grossly they used to be called as tribal. However, nowadays, they are called as aborigine, or rather the NGO introduced, Indigenous.

Most of them are agricultural wage labors by profession. They have never had an opportunity of continuous employment for 12 months in a year. Since plantation of rice seedlings till harvesting, they didn’t have anything in hand to do to for earning. Such situation used to come a few times in a year. Although, some money come to their hands, as an advance wage for the next harvesting season often about half of the fair wage rate, and kind a type of slavery bondage. But this money wasn’t lasting long, and they had to go to the money lenders for the additional through high and compound interest rate on repayment. These were the ways they had to be encircled within and remained sunken under the debt almost half of each year. They hardly passed their days before the blood-eyes of the landlords and sensual staring of the money lenders.

These were the stories as of 2005. Now let’s listen the story onwards.

Reena Urao, Education Supervisor of a NGO namely BSDO by profession. She’s from the same indigenous group as Dukhanee is form and they have been good pals of each other. “If you are hungry, your brain doesn’t deliver”- having made this proverb null, Dukhanee generated an idea. “Well, whatever amount of rice we can arrange for cooking, if we take a handful aside, how’s that?”- a bunch of hopes sparkled in Dukhanee’s eyes. Reena seconded her idea and kept inspiring. Then, she started that way so.

And, that’s the shoot. Then Dukhanee managed to convince 15 other women, of like her, and started the handful rice preservation society. Whenever they were able to management some rice for cooking, they took a handful of rice aside and deposited the savings of rice to the central stock of their society once a week. Hence, whenever they were suffering from the lack of employment during the lean seasons, they no longer had to sale their labour in advance, but were taking rice-loan from their society to feed the family. They had to repay the loan by rice only but with an added amount of rice as service charge substituting the interest on a certain rate. This additional amount of rice goes straight to the account of the member who has paid the additional rice. As a case, Dukhanee had a saving of rice of 15 Kg. She took loan 10 Kg loan from the society. She had then savings balance 5 Kg. When she pays back, she pays 2 Kg on top of the 10 Kg as service charge. Hence, now her savings is,

Previous Balance 5 Kg + Loan Repayment 10 Kg + Service Charge 2 Kg = 17 Kg.

That 16 member’s society now has become increased to a number of 44 members. Do you want to know how much is their savings now? Please don’t be surprised, their collective savings of rice is now 11 Metric Tons!

Photo: Saikat Biswas
Weekly savings by the members. Photo: Saikat Biswas

25 more rice savings societies have been formed and the members have been getting benefits out of the societies in that area by the inspiration of Dukhanee. Now they do no longer sale their labour during the lean seasons. In the recent times, when Dukhanee’s society was lacking adequate space for the rice preservation, Reena Urao suggested them to invest some money from the sales proceed of rice to the income generating schemes such as poultry and livestock. Accordingly, they have sold off a portion of their rice and bought 6 cows from the sales proceed. They have allotted the cows to 6 members through lottery. They have planned to provide cows to all the 44 members gradually, one to each. An international non government NGO namely Oxfam has been with them since the beginning of their efforts with technical and intellectual support and guidance. Oxfam never provides them any support in monetary form. They have demonstrated that if they receive no money but only guidance they have the capability to make the things possible and to make visible changes.

We have no idea that how much dignified Shawna Urao had been. But we know when Dukhanee had been utmost struggling to unite the women to form this Musti Chaul Shongrokkhon Somity (Handful Rice Preservation Society), many people blasted out with criticism saying that Sawna Urao’s widow at last spoiling our wives. Such a nice man Sawna Urao was but his widow has come on to the street and trying to take our wives along with. They were in a fear that such initiative of Dukhanee may be something of interest-bearing to the NGOs. They thought this as a ground work of the NGOs to expand the nets of micro credit schemes which would eventually make them destitute. Indeed, the poor, simple and marginal indigenous villagers would have been surrounded by a cloud of fear. Besides, the success of Dukhanee’s women leadership was of jealousy to the male-rules society. But, lately when it appeared that during the lean season, when the wives were serving a plate of rice to their husbands with some vegetable and a spoon of lentil soup, the men were barely trying to hide their tears bursting out.

People are no longer jealous; rather all is proud with Dukhanee. The lady has not only established a remark of women leadership at their village only, but also for the whole areas. Nowadays, many organisations invite her to tell her success stories. Her success stories show the lights of hope to thousands of indigenous population.

Dukhanee didn’t have a dream to be a champion as she never knew the meaning of champion. But she has been placed to the champion’s role of honor through her work, but still she doesn’t know the meaning of champion. The real champions of the life and the battle of changes don’t need to know the meaning of champion.

Photo: Saikat Biswas

Dukhanee Urao, in a weekly group meeting. Photo: Saikat Biswas



Post a Comment