When Mamata Das’s husband, an electrician, fell from a pole and injured his back, the responsibility of looking after the family fell squarely on her shoulders. Mamata’s husband was the sole breadwinner of the family, before the unfortunate accident confined him to his bed. Almost overnight, this barely literate woman, with no financial stability and hefty medical bills to pay every month, had to bear the responsibility of looking after her family: her husband, mother-in-law and three children.
Mamata stays in Aitalang village in Odisha’s Khordha district, which has a typical rural setting: thatched roofs, lush farms, mud roads. In the immediate aftermath of her husband’s accident, Mamata worked as a farmhand, helping out in the neighbouring farms during the harvesting season. Though the job did not pay well and required her to be away from her family for long periods of time during the day, it put food on the table.
With the harvesting season coming to an end, however, Mamata was staring at unemployment. That was when members of a local Self-Help Group told her about Rang De. With the small loans provided by Rang De, she took up animal husbandry, buying four goats. Animal husbandry provides Mamata with a steady income and also allows her to take care of the household chores.
Resilience and Equanimity
By its very nature, agricultural labour is unpredictable and the wages often fluctuate according to the demand of the work. Despite the agriculture sector employing 80 to 100 million women in India, their contribution is hardly recognized. In such a scenario, alternative livelihoods like dairy farming, animal husbandry and other small enterprises can help women by providing them with some amount of financial independence.
It also provides employment to women who cannot leave the household because they are expected to look after the children and daily chores.
Despite the bleakness of the situation she finds herself in, Mamata has not given in to despair. When we spoke to her during a visit to Khordha, she told us of her plans to buy a cow and take up dairy farming. Even as she was speaking to us, a young girl came bounding out and crashed into her arms. This is Mamata’s niece, who she had adopted and looked after like her own daughter.
For the people in Aitalang village, Mamata’s story, her resilience and equanimity in the face of adversity is a source of inspiration. We ask Mamata what she thinks the future holds for her, what she hopes. “If my children study well with my support, I hope they lead a better life, with God’s blessing,” she says.
Mamata Das is just one of hundreds of women entrepreneurs supported by Rang De. You can support other women like her by contributing Rs. 100 or more here: goo.gl/6Lqoko