Urmilaben AMRUTAL PARMAR
ASIA · India
Using knowledge as a weapon to break down barriers
Urmilaben Parmar (42) began her farm work upon marriage. Living in tough economic conditions, she was forced to learn how to do labour work for the survival of her family.
It was during these challenging times that Urmilaben met SEWA – the Self Employed Women’s Association, attended training programs and began to learn about the importance of women’s strength and ownership. She underwent midwife and agricultural training, and also learned about saving, credit, and other awareness campaigns helpful for community development.
Through these trainings Urmilaben established savings and credit groups. Not only did she gain respect from her family, but she was appointed an executive committee member of SEWA, which allows her to take part in decision making processes which affect all agriculture workers at village, state, national, and international levels. In addition, Urmilaben ensured that her children received proper education.
The agricultural training that Urmilaben received was important because it not only increased her self-confidence and helped her own family, but it helped the community as well. She voiced and taught the importance of different agricultural techniques, from soil testing to the use of certified seeds. She also inspired other farmers to take part in similar trainings, which resulted in approximately 500 farmers from surrounding villages who have now undergone agricultural training.
Urmilaben has also collaborated with government offices in an attempt to link farmers and women with government schemes. When women became reluctant to start work with the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act of the Government in the village, Urmilaben decided to lead by example and start the work first. Since then around 150-200 women have joined in this work.
Urmilaben has also been involved in the creation of almost 200 self-help groups. Essentially, the groups aim to help farmers gain collective strength and bargaining power to develop their families, as well as serving as a platform for discussion of good practices and farming techniques. The groups have spread the importance of knowledge and awareness among farmers.
Urmilaben is a courageous and determined woman whose efforts have benefited entire communities by spreading awareness, which had led to sustainable employment schemes and increases in income. The lifestyles of these communities have been improved with the commitment of this dedicated woman.