Saturday, May 23, 2009

Womens for Millets - A Stitch in time saves nine

Millets …A Stitch in time saves nine

The whole of Punjab is witness to an agro-ecologic
ally torn society, the one with a rickety, barren and dry surface of earth, which has since ages been regarded as ‘Mother Earth. She has always served its children with food, water, metals and much more. And the children have since the last three decades proved to be the most unscrupulous of the creatures,
the one burning the wheat-paddy straw with no sense of the devastation being done to the holy mother; the one who are numero-uno in the country for the application of pesticides. Any ray of hope?

A group of young women learning Stitching at a local Gurdwara in village Jeeda of district Bathinda attended a women meeting conducted by Kheti Virasat Mission. Their sewing machines were still lying nearby and some even hold the cloth being stitched in their hands while the meeting happened. A group of fifteen young women in the age group of 17-23 attended the meeting. Most of them belong to farmer families.

A healthy discussion about the effect of pesticides on our health engaged the women/girls in the meeting. Many knew about the health effects of using pesticides but its effect on reproductive health was discussed in detail. They kept discussing the cancer, blood pressure, uric acid, diabetic cases in the village and the way none is spared of these diseases which were unheard of some thirty years ago. Even if there were such cases they could be numbered.

Kiran Kaur from the same village is volunteering the village level environmental health status survey and many girls promised to support her during the door to door survey.

The stark reality is that although they belonged to farmer families, they purchase vegetables from the local vendors. They do possess space for kitchen gardening in their homes but is underutilized. After I distributed the seeds for vegetables, all of them promised for a return of double number of seeds of the ones distributed and will also save them for the next season.

Bt. Cotton and Soil and animal health took its turn and the women realized that there are some cases of Bt cotton allergy in the village. The effect of Bt cotton and the loss of yield on the subsequent crops was discussed.

A discussion on earlier meetings on women and millets held at other villages and their success captivated them and generated their interest for conducting a similar event at their village. A chart depicting the nutritional comparison between Jowar and Rice, and Bajra and Rice made them think for a change in food habits and culture. Jowar and Bajra are miles ahead of Rice in many nutrition supplements or to say Rice stays nowhere in the comparison. While we discussed the nutritional difference between millets and rice, the apt response was nobody told us about their significance in our foods and we always thought that bajra and jowar are animal fodder.

The women realized that this is a kind of corruption and unruly behavior at the part of our health officials, where a large section of pregnant women suffer from anaemia and malnutrition and are not advised millet rich diet that is rich in Iron, protein, calcium and many micronutrients.

The women agreed for the screening of a millet based documentary called “Millets – The Miracle Grains” at their training place.

The mouth watering traditional drinks meeting at village Bhotna made them realize the importance of such drinks. The adverse effect of Coke and Pepsi made them say a complete no to the soft drinks.

The meeting unfurls various skills possessed by girls in the village. A girl named Virpal Kaur said she will write an article on ‘Need for Natural Farming and its importance’. The girls also vowed to spread the word against crop residue burning and to become true daughters of Mother Earth.

Perhaps the stitching begun by young girls to sew the culturally and agriculturally worn out society may save Punjab from a complete devastation!

14th may, 2009
Jeeda, Bathinda

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