On Mother's Day, celebrations usually focus on the role that mothers play to nourish their families but across the country, countless women are celebrating Nature on May 8 and expressing their gratitude towards Mother Earth for providing them with livelihoods opportunities and sustenance. Social organisation Grow-Trees.com has not just helped these women to conserve vital ecosystems for the sake of their children but also empowered them to take care of their families. Meet these women warriors who treat the environment as an extension of themselves and know that motherhood has more than one meaning.
Hansidevi: Hailing from Uttarakhand's Nathuakhan village in the Nainital District, Hansidevi was struggling to make ends meet when Grow-Trees.com helped her to initiate a nursery of over 1500 saplings at her home. The region she lives in is seeing massive deforestation and through this enterprise, not only was she able to sustain herself but to add to the eco-diversity around her. On maturity, the produce will provide fodder for her buffaloes and help her save an annual expense of over Rs.15000. She will also be earning an additional income from fruits and flowers. She is now learning the nuances of sustainable agriculture right in her backyard and is seeing for herself, the transformative impact of afforestation on air, water and soil. Additionally, the trees create a protective bio-fencing against wildlife intrusions. Like any protective mother, she courageously beat back a forest fire sometime back to protect her saplings and does not regret losing her hair in the blaze! She says, “I will continue to nurture Mother Earth against all odds and will protect my saplings which are like my own children.”
Mala: Hailing from the marginalised and underserved Irula tribe in Tamil Nadu, Mala had experienced dire poverty, discrimination and deprivation till Grow-Trees.com absorbed her and many other women like her in their Tamil Nadu afforestation project. After having faced social isolation and financial hardship, Mala found it extremely gratifying to work with a larger community to heal and restore the environment. She says, "Now not just my own tribe but every tree I have planted is part of my family. It is so rewarding to know that thanks to Mother Earth, I am now able to earn a sustainable income and am also giving back to her by planting indigenous varieties like amla, guava and jackfruit. Planting these trees is also good for future generations as they sustain local biodiversity, expand green cover and maintain the ecological balance of our region.”
Surbali Singh: In Jharkhand's Laylam Tola Chardungri village, Surbali and her husband joined the plantation project initiated by Grow-Trees.com to take care of their children and extended family. Since then, they have not looked back and have now constructed a thriving nursery after learning tasks such as pit digging, sapling transportation, and plantation. Surbali says, "I feel so much more confident as a woman and a mother now that I am able to support my family and secure the future of my children. I now know that when we attend to the needs of the earth, she takes care of our needs."
Meera Bai: Meera Bai, a mother of two, hails from Bardiya village and thanks to Grow-Trees.com's Rajasthan Project, she is now able to earn substantially. Her work has also partially relieved her of domestic drudgery and she says, "My plantation work has helped me to understand that being a mother does not just mean staying at home. I feel proud to be able to contribute to my children's well-being and it makes me very happy that I am part of a movement that is larger than me."
Hanifa Begum: Hanifa is from Pannaikadu and for the longest time, her husband earned meagre amounts as a fisherman. Says Hanifa, "This income was not sufficient for us but then Grow-Trees gave us two rafts for seaweed cultivation and taught us how to cultivate seaweed in an efficient way. There is light at the end of a long tunnel finally and I now feel that sustainable methods of cultivation must be embraced for the sake of the environment. As a mother, I can now hope to give a better life and education to our children and this makes me look forward to the future."