Leadership of Leela Devi and collective action in Maulaganj

Community in Northern Bihar, one of the most flood prone state, heavy rains in Nepal cause flash floods and breaking embankments putting the population at risk. One woman in Maulaganj village in Darbhanga District has emerged as a dynamic grassroots leader taking initiatives in disaster preparedness and climate change adaptation initiatives.

This is the first village where SSP entered in 2009 with community resilience initiative in Bihar. Kanchan Seva Ashram, NGO based in Muzaffapur facilitated the initiatives in Maulaganj village. Formation of women led task forces, development of training manual and teaching other community was the initiatives in the beginning. Slowly the community has shifted their role in addressing issues in climate change and agriculture. Leadership of Leela Devi, Manju Devi, Shruti Devi and America Devi were proved and yielded good result in changing the village with better facilities and initiatives.

Leela Devi and her group Shivam Mahila Samuday identified and marked highland areas which people could move to one month before the anticipated flooding. “We created disaster management plan with an eye on getting pregnant women, children and senior citizens to safer areas,‘ Leela explains. The group was recognized by Government of Bihar as one of the best groups with sustainable savings and got an award for their work. The groups has 2.5 lakhs in their savings and utilize the savings in agriculture and livelihoods. Women group accessed government programmes to construct bridge to prevent flood in the village as well lot of development measures like drainages, roads and anganwadi while lobbying with government.

Our emergency kits, prepared ahead of time contain medicines, lentils, dry foods etc. these efforts have been scaled up and extended to neighbouring villages on a continuous basis,, including a training manual on disaster task force thaw we share. “My dream is to enable women to be self-reliant”

She realize that her community have not extended their initiatives beyond disaster preparedness. While mapping of risk in the village, we found issues that need to be addressed. Health and hygiene, education, road and drainage got our attention. She says. “We now have access to solar lamps and there is awareness about the hazards.”

Similarly we refrain from using pesticides on our farmland and notices how our health has improved. With these efforts women leaders from these villages are addressing climatic while doing agriculture using less chemicals and pesticides. They learn how to prepared bio pesticides, vermin compost and use in own land.

With leadership of Leela Devi, women members jointly created a Community Development Plan with five critical development activities that they demanded the local government authorities to undertake. Of these, actions on four issues were sanctioned by District Authorities and requisite steps were taken. Appreciative of the enthusiasm and rigour that these women have displayed, the local MLA has put the women in charge of auditing and monitoring fair implementation of the demanded construction work in the village. Also, schemes like Bihar Government’s Mukhyamantri Kanya Surakhsha Yojana that had not been enacted in the village were enforced post they spoke to the Child Development Protection Officer.

Earlier, there was no money for doing agriculture. After joining the SHG, members demanded money for cultivation. Now they are doing vegetables like Sag, wheat, kheera, matter, green chilli etc. America Devi got Rs. 1000 profit just from Sag cultivation in 1 khatta of land this month.

Manju Devi is doing good business in 12 khatta land of Potato (4 khatta), Bindi (6 khatta) and Kheera (2 khatta) cultivation. They are accessing free seeds with full subsidy from government. They got seeds of moong, dhaincha, chena and pumping machine from government recently.

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