MALAPPURAM: If the sight of the green, swaying paddy seedlings across various fields of Thennala panchayat is pleasant, then the efforts of a young courageous girl at Kodakkal and her team behind it are inspiring. Led by Yasmin A, a group of 500 local women converted around 1,300 acre fallow land here into lush fields, where tapioca and other vegetables are also grown. It is just one of the numerous missions being taken up by Yasmin for women and children here.
The winds of change started to sweep across the panchayat, where women remained in the households, after Yasmin was selected chairperson of the Kudumbashree Thennala Community Development Society (CDS) in 2011. Its neighbourhood groups (NHG) grew from 90 to 232.
It also secured leading position in the district after a slew of projects were implemented under Yasmin’s leadership.“When I attended the first meeting as chairperson, the CDS was in the last position in the district. We were criticised by the authorities during a review meeting in Malappuram,” Yasmin said.
She did not give up, but oversaw the emergence of NHGs and Joint Liability Groups (JLG) across the panchayat. Now, it has 126 JLGs, under which more than 500 women earn livelihood by engaging in various activities, including farming and small-scale industries.In 2015, the JLGs together started Thennala Agro Producer Company, which records annual revenue of `20 lakh by marketing Thennala rice. Women here produce around 7,200 tonnes of rice annually.
Things, however, weren’t easy for Yasmin when she made her foray into farming. “Leeches used to sting us whenever we entered the field and several women stopped coming,” she said. Even more disappointing was the attitude of some local residents who discouraged her. “The precious lesson I learned during those days was one can’t achieve success without taking challenges head on,” she said.
Yasmin is now looking to set up a research and training centre in addition to seed and labour banks. However, she has one disappointment. After running a school for differently-abled children for two years, with a strength of 100 students, she had to close it down due to financial crunch as it needed `36,000 a month. “I love to spend time with specially-abled kids. There’re many mothers who struggle to take care of these children. My prime emphasis is to help these children get empowered and make them employable,” she said.
Wellwishers have promised `5 lakh and she’s now looking for more support. “Those children and their parents are in dire need of a servant like me. I want to go back to them,” she said. A Class X dropout, she completed her Plus Two through Kudumbashree’s continued education programme. “After being elected CDS chairperson, I was forced to go out and communicate with people. It made me realise the need for higher studies,” said Yasmin. She passed SSLC in 2015 and completed Plus Two in 2017. “Education helped me get empowered. Let it make others too empowered and responsible,” she said.