'Be the change you want to see in the world': Pushpa Devi
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Pushpa lives with her skilled-worker husband and four children--2 girls and 2 boys. Apart from being a woman farmer, she also doubles up as an ASHA bahu (Accredited Social Health Activist worker). Pushpa was born in a family of farmers in a village of Jalaun district. They were 6 siblings. Her father passed away when she was very young, and her mother and brothers took up to farming so that family sustenance could be maintained. She studied till class 8 and then marriage brought an end to her education.
Pushpa got married when she was 13. Her husband was studying in high school then. "When I came to my parents-in-law's place after marriage for the first time, a warm reception was given to me. But after that life turned sour. They did not leave any opportunity to make me feel that I was failing to fulfill my responsibility as a daughter-in-law. I was even thrown out of the house on one occasion. I was not allowed to step out on the road or speak with any outsider. My husband too sided with his parents and would physically beat and abuse me. This continued over time and slowly we drifted apart from the family".
One Manorama didi has been a very positive influence in Pushpa's life. "She organized us women into a self-help group (SHG) and convinced my husband too, who was earlier opposing my association with her initiative. Now he himself comes to the meetings and is taking the work forward proactively. Also since he got associated with this movement he has never raised his hand on me".
Her father-in-law owns 14 bighas of land for agriculture. He has not yet divided the property between his two sons but has given 2 bighas each to them and rest 10 bighas are with him, which he sub-lets to other farmers.
Her work and achievements
Her husband earns enough to feed the family. But Pushpa argues that life is not just about feeding one's family. A positive influence came into their lives when she and her husband got associated with the Aaroh Mahila Kisaan Manch ('Aaroh' is a campaign for rights and recognition of women farmers in Uttar Pradesh supported by Oxfam India). She started doing her own farming after getting associated with the SHG and has been doing farming since 4 years now.
Pushpa had never done any farm activity while at her parents' place. Her participation in farming increased over time after marriage. Slowly she was allowed to do activities such as take the cattle for grazing, deliver lunch for men folk working in the fields, take grains for grinding, take care of cattle livestock, and as she gained experience in a range of farm activities she eventually ended up managing her own farmland. She did learn it the hard way on the field, but it is panning out well. After separating from her parents-in-law, she worked as a farm labourer in the fields and her husband worked as an artisan. But when her husband got 2 bighas of his family land, she first grew rice, wheat, and til (sesame) on it. They would sell the produce in 'Konch' market and/or door-to-door in the village itself.
When later she bought her own 2 bighas of land, after getting influenced by the SHG, she went for vegetable farming of potato, brinjal, tomato and onion. "The Samooh (SHG) has 10 women farmer members, and we used to deposit INR 30 every month; now we deposit INR 50 every month. I took a loan of INR 100,000 to buy my land, which I repaid to the SHG from the income I earned from agriculture". Now she uses organic farming methods only. All members of SHG collectively generate organic fertilizers at one place. Yield is more with organic farming she says. Pushpa is able to earn an annual income of INR 100,000 per bigha of her land. She also makes money working as an Asha bahu and her husband earns as an artisan.