Like the other women, Bina Devi, after getting married into a family of Dhauri village, Munger district, Bihar would spend her days cleaning, cooking, and doing household chores limited within her new home’s boundaries. At that time, things were not any different from any other village in the country. Any work outside the four walls of the house was considered beyond the capacity of a woman.
What people did not know was Bina was born to be different. Bina empowered herself with all her grit and guts that she has in abundance! This woman would pick up farming equipment if rightly encouraged and trained; she would also earn the label of ‘Mushroom Mahila’ of Munger, who empowers hundreds of her sisters. Bina also received an award from the President of India!
“I had a fire within me. One that was silent but continuously burning, looking for a direction. And after some time, I found it,” recalls Bina, who was one of the many women trained by Munger’s Krishi Vigyan Kendra (Agriculture Science Centre), an agriculture extension under the government.
This training was to empower rural women to get involved in organic farming so that women can help their households financially and contribute to the well-being of the environment.
“I was fascinated by it and how easy it was to grow them. What was even more shocking that very few people knew or indulged in this trade. So I decided I would,” she said. The training gave her the equipment, and her growing interest in the field introduced her to- mushroom farming, yet another natural wonder!
In the year 2013, her journey of breaking gender stereotypes from within the very doors of her home started, that too it all started from under the bed!
“I got in touch with the Krishi Vigyan Centre people, and they explained to me all the nitty-gritty of growing mushrooms. I had an old palang or cot lying around the house and growing a kilo of mushroom under it. Mushrooms are highly nutritious and have a high value in the market than many other fruits or vegetables. I was not just farming at home but also going out and selling it in the haat or bazaar, and that was something, not just for me, but for all the women in the area,” she shares.
The journey that started from 1 kilo gave her the recognition as ‘Mushroom Mahila’ of Munger; her journey has been exponential and extremely humbling, she mentions, in response to the recent Nari Shakti Puraskar she won from President Ram Nath Kovind. She was among 16 other women who were honored with this prestigious award on 8th March.
In the initial stages, it was difficult for Bina to break the patriarchy; village people used to discourage her and even made fun of her, she recalls. “People in the village would call me crazy for doing this. Even in usual vegetable farming, I would make jaivik (organic) manure using dairy waste like cow urine and dung, and that would often disgust people and give them a chance to ridicule me,” she says.
“But, I stuck to it and worked hard, and in no time, the results were out in the open for all to see. I didn’t have to say anything; my actions proved my work’s merit and changed their perspective. Soon other women began to join me.”
Helping women and Farmers
Bina has also been inclined and actively involved in spreading digital literacy among women. For that, she was even awarded by Tata Trusts for training 700 women how to use mobile. She has also helped 2,500 farmers create self-help groups and taught them the Rice Intensification (SRI) method of crop farming.
Bina served as the sarpanch or village head of Dhauri Panchayat in Tetiabamber block for five years due to her extensive work in this sector and her contribution to developing rural and women! During her time of power, she promoted organic and mushroom farming and trained people in vermicompost production, an organic insecticide, and dairy farming.
Today, she single-handedly supports an entire family of 18 members, with her monthly earning of Rs.90,000 (Rs 30,000 from mushroom farming and Rs 60,000 from the organic farming of miscellaneous vegetables), while also financing the education of her four children.
“I have three sons and one daughter, and all are studying outside in various parts of India. Apart from my boys, my daughter is also studying hard to become an engineer. People ask about her marriage plans, and I say I don’t care because I want her to be independent first. It is the most important gift a parent can give to their children, especially daughters. Because, when women are encouraged and supported, they can truly make any impossible possible!” she concludes.
Just like Bina, Vardaan supports and empowers women in all ways possible!
Here’s wishing all the wonderful women a delighted International Women’s Day!
As Michelle Obama says,
“There is no limit to what we, as women, can accomplish.”