Committed to amplifying the stories and voices of rural women, North East Network (NEN) observed the IDRW on 15th October, which also coincides with the National Women Farmers’ Day, by bringing together government agencies, women organisations, village leaders, CBOs, NGOs and the general public in an interface with rural women at Phek Town.
The theme for IDRW was “Rural women and girls building resilience in the wake of COVID 19”. Rural women, with a crucial role in agriculture, food security and nutrition, already face struggles in their daily lives. Now, since COVID-19 and their unique health needs in remote areas, they are less likely to have access to quality health services, essential medicines, vaccines and infrastructure, including water and sanitation, while much of their labour remains invisible and unpaid, even as their workloads become increasingly heavy. In the face of all of that, rural women have been at the front lines of responding to the pandemic even as their unpaid care and domestic work increased under lockdowns. Despite the exacerbating gender gaps in agriculture and food security, rural women substantially contribute towards ensuring food sufficiency, healthy food production, sustainability and self-sustenance of food in their communities.
The event highlighted the vital role women play in sustaining rural households and communities, improving rural livelihoods and overall social well-being. NEN took this occasion to call for action to support rural women and girls and grow their capacities to respond to climate change through sustainable food production and natural resource management. It also aimed at generating conversations on food production and consumption patterns that are healthy for people and our earth.
Project Director of Rural Development, Phek, Mr. Razukhru Vasa, graced the occasion as the guest speaker for the event.
He acknowledged women’s contribution to the family and society at large, and that many women toil from morning to night while serving her family and society. In particular, he lauded the achievements of younger women who are doing much better than their male counterparts in terms of education and career pursuits in recent times including employment in the Government sector. He encouraged the younger women to seize the numerous career opportunities that are available for women and girls through various women oriented programmes.
Ms. Vilazonuo Gloria, Programme Associate, NEN shared the research findings on Micronutrient Rich & Climate Resilient Crops , a study conducted by NEN in partnership with North East Slow Food for Agrobiodiversity (NESFAS), Meghalaya in 2018- 2020. The finding highlights the importance of indigenous food for the nutritional security of our communities. “Our community has a rich biodiversity however they are being neglected and unutilised” she noted.
Ms. Vekhotalu Lea, farmer and a woman leader from Pfutsero, shared her experience of the pandemic and her struggles as a mother to create space for her child’s education at home and also provide food, with limited resources through the lockdown. Ms. Lea, also a leader of the Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA), shared the story of their collective in organising their farmer-members’ agricultural produce and connecting it to their vendor-members at Kohima and Dimapur, who were struggling to eke a living at both ends. Women collectives such as SEWA have demonstrated their resilience and leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown.
Ms. Wedele T.Mero, a farmer, entrepreneur and women leader from Chizami village elucidated the need to protect and promote our indigenous seeds and traditional knowledge in order to build a more sustainable and resilient community. She appealed to the Government to support initiatives such as community seed banks and diversity-based agriculture. While sharing the experience of Chizami where women are representing and participating in decision making bodies, she called on the need to include women in all decision-making processes.
The second session “Achieving Gender Inclusive and equitable Livelihood- A conversation on state programmes and schemes” saw the participation of representatives from different departments. Ms Imsunaro, DDM, NABARD, Ms. Veposelu Naroh, District Coordinator DLCW, Mahila Shakti Kendra, Counsellor, SAKHI- One Stop Centre, Mr. Neilo Koza, AFA, Dept of Agriculture, Dr. Neilhouvou Thao, District Functional Specialist, District Mission Management Unit, from Phek District represented the various departments and shared about women centric programmes, ongoing schemes and resources which can be availed by women farmers.
Other highlights of the event include a Women Farmers’ Market which saw the participation of 10 communities from Phek District with diverse products. The market provided a platform for the farmers to exhibit the rich agrobiodiversity of the district while they were able to generate an income. 120 Farmers, Government departments participated in the event. A Photo exhibition and Seed Exhibition generated a lot of interest amongst the participants.