Women’s group guards Jharkhand forests

Seeing the destruction of forests, the women of Sakhi Mandal took the initiative to protect the forests. “Save the Jungle” initiative was started by 104 rural women from 7 Sakhi Mandals of this area…reports Manoj Pathak.

The active participation of rural women in Jharkhand in environmental protection is a one-of-its-kind initiative taken by the women of Sakhi Mandal, a self-help women’s group from Jharbeda panchayat in Anandpur block of West Singhbhum district, to save the forests from being cut down.

Through this initiative started by the rural women in April 2021, awareness is being spread about environmental protection among the villagers. These women are guarding the forests with sticks in their hands.

The villagers say that Sal, Teak, Asan, Bamboo, Karanj, Chironji, Chaikudi, Mahua, Kendu and several other trees in the forest are spread over 9 hectares in Mahishgida in Anandpur block. In the past, during the cultivation and harvesting of these wild crops for livelihood, smaller trees nearby were cut and forests were also set on fire.

Seeing the destruction of forests, the women of Sakhi Mandal took the initiative to protect the forests. “Save the Jungle” initiative was started by 104 rural women from 7 Sakhi Mandals of this area.

These women have divided themselves into four groups and guard the forest area every day from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. in the morning and from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. in the evening. Carrying sticks in their hands, these women who are emphasising on environmental protection, also count the number of trees daily so that they come to know of any reduction in the number of trees.

They gather at one place every day and then divide themselves into groups and guard the forests. If any woman evades her responsibility of guarding the forests she has to pay a fine of Rs 200.

Baironika Barjo, a woman associated with Sakhi Mandal said, “If any woman of the Sakhi Mandal is found absent without notice, she will have to pay a fine of Rs 200. For failing to pay the fine a provision has also been made for strict action so that a fear is instilled in the self-help group members. During these times of corona pandemic, women are fulfilling their responsibility by following the social distancing norms prescribed by the government by staying at a distance of two yards from each other.”

Nemanti Jojo says “The balance in the environment is lost due to the cutting of forest trees. It is the responsibility of all of us to save the environment so we have to protect the forests on our own. Forests are a significant part of our livelihood. If there is a threat to forests, our future will also not be secure.”

She said all of us (Sakhi Mandal women) guard the forests for two to three hours every day. They also make the villagers aware about environmental balance.

Now the rest of the villagers are praising this effort by these women and also contribute voluntarily in this work. Villagers now collect wood according to their needs after informing the women of Sakhi Mandal.

Nancy Sahai, CEO, Jharkhand State Livelihood Promotion Society (JSLPS), says that ‘Save the Jungle’, a collective initiative of the women of Sakhi Mandal, shows the awareness and social responsibility of rural women towards environmental protection.

She said, “Women are also fulfilling their financial and social responsibility by being associated with Sakhi Mandal. The women of Sakhi Mandal in the state are helped and made aware on all subjects, including organic farming, solar irrigation plant, eco-friendly farming etc. I hope this initiative by sisters of Sakhi Mandal will make others realize the responsibility of environmental protection.”

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