The female factor

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Asunati Khonara, 65 of village Prapamunda, a mother of 4, is a Kond adivasi woman. With the establishment of NIPDIT in 1982, she became the animator of the Dadaki Cluster Level Organisation. She has been the vital force behind the people of 16 villages giving up shifting cultivation and going for forest protection. Though illiterate, she has a through understanding of the problems of the villages and their relation with environment. Asunati spoke to Down to Earth.

What motivated your campaign against podu and start protecting the forests?
It was the deteriorating condition of the environment we live in. We are the children of the forest, because it gives us fruits, fuel and fodder. Podu which was useful in my youth was no good anymore. It was destroying forest too. No longer there was wood available to build houses or even to cremate dead.

How did you convince people? Was it difficult?
It was not very easy asking them to give up something which they have been doing for generations. With the help of nipdit, I called several meetings and asked the villagers, especially the women, to think cooly about this. I told them that its actually the sahukars (moneylenders) and banias (traders) and contractors from the plains who want to see our forests destroyed. Podu, will never get us out of the debts.

What other roles do you play?
I organise women to take up developmental issues and help them launch various income generation programmes. I also meet officials, when needed, on behalf of the women.

What is your future programme?
Making everyone literate in the village so that they are ready to face the world with confidence and courage.