//Orissa tribal women take to protecting state's forest cover

Orissa tribal women take to protecting state's forest cover

Balda Village (Orissa): The lush greenery surrounding a remote village in Orissa owes its existence to the blazing dynamism of a small group of tribal women, a movement that began more than 15 years ago and is today reaping the fruits of their labour.

Balda village, with its mud huts and stone pathways, stands as a testimony to the unwavering grit of their womenfolk.
The docile-looking women, who roam around the village pathways in their traditional attire, have snatched axes, fought with the hardened wood mafia and even kept night vigil to save their forest cover. The movement began in 1995 by Radha Pandia almost by chance.
“We did not have much forest area because very often the mafia were cutting the trees that had affected the area. Now we protect forest ourselves and are able to earn our livelihood also from it. We get firewood from the fallen leaves and branches,” says Pandia.
Pandia’s group, which has now grown to encompass nearly 100 other tribal women, educates people on the importance of saving their environment.
Earlier, these villagers used to cut down trees. But they realized that it was infact harming themselves. They often had to go to distant villages for work. Soon, they decided to start saving their forests. This initiative began with the women of this area, particularly the members of SHG or Self Help Group. This movement began 15 years back and is only growing,” says Luna Panda, a social worker, who along with some other members of a voluntary organisation gave the necessary direction to the small movement.
Panda says they never needed the help of the police, as the women were able to take care of themselves. The women often leave for their “work” after completing their daily chores and meet up at the forests to keep vigil. Some of the women are even involved in keeping shifts for the vigil.
Pandia’s Self Help Group now has more than 15 group working around the Nandpur block of the region.
Now, the villagers frequently attend workshops and seminars to understand the worth of the forests.