Why Women Of Munsiyari Are A Force To Reckon With
We are so engrossed in our city lives that we sometimes forget our surroundings. It may be because city life is so fast-paced that it is difficult to keep up. Or it can be that we are becoming more and more self-indulgent with each passing day. In this sense, there is so much to learn from the women living in the mountains who not just improve their houses, but also go the extra mile to preserve nature in their surrounding. This is something very significant to the personalities of the women of Munsiyari near the Pithoragarh district of Uttarakhand.
The women here are extremely hardworking. The multi-taskers par excellence are primarily farmers who grow their own vegetables to eat, they also weave, one is a bird guide and many of them run Homestays to have an additional source of income. They are financially independent and have formed a community called Maati Sangathan.
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At the Sangathan all the women meet and discuss their household problems, find solutions, discuss their livelihoods and also brainstorm on how to conserve the jungles, mountains and the waterbodies that were earlier on the edge of dying.
“We like it here, if we move out of the village and live somewhere else then we will also be stuck in a room. We won’t get fresh air or water there. And we want to continue living here and find ways to expand our livelihood here itself…” -Member, Maati Sangathan
Talking about one of the waterbodies above the village of Munsiyari called Mesar Kund, Maati leader – Basanti said, “Earlier nobody was taking care of Mesar Kund. In our childhood when we would climb up here, we would find it filled to a higher level than what it is now. But some years back it was in an even worse condition so then all of us [women] decided that we will climb up here to clean the Kund and weed it out. So that it comes alive and we have seen a difference in the Kund since then.”
Mesar Kund is about a kilometre above Munsiyari. The trek to Mesar Kund is gorgeous with a waterfall right beside the trekking path covered with leaves and trees that meet as if to make a sporadic ceiling on top. It takes about half an hour to trek to Mesar Kund and then one can see a plain area where there is the water body.
Another resident of Munsiyari and part of Maati Sangathan says, “We do farming and we do social work as well. We work as a team and it’s not just women from Munsiyari but women from neighbouring villages also who come. We have made a space for ourselves. So, we have made a commitment that we will share our sorrows and happiness with each other and we don’t want to go out of the village.
We like it here, if we move out of the village and live somewhere else then we will also be stuck in a room. We won’t get fresh air or water there. And we want to continue living here and find ways to expand our livelihood here itself,” she smiled.
Apart from conservation work, women of Munsiyari are a force to reckon with when it comes to supporting and standing for each other. Mallika, who originally belongs to Delhi, runs Himalayan Ark in Munsiyari, has been living here for about 25 years now. Now she also calls herself as a farmer along with other women from the mountain. She is currently the sarpanch of the Sarmoli Jinti Van Panchayat and works for the empowerment of women there. She was the first person who brought the concept of homestays in Munsiyari in around 2003 and encouraged women to start it.
“At that time we thought what can we do to increase our livelihood so then we thought of tourism. And it consists of conserving the place as well so whoever will contribute to conservation will also join the tourism aspect here. Initially, we started with 13 families who volunteered to open their homes as homestay and take a risk by letting strangers live with them,” said Mallika.
Basanti adds to it that the rule of their Van Panchayat is that they collect Rs 50 from the families who join homestay every year to do conservation work. As a group, they came up with a set of rules and regulations that everyone has to adhere to join homestay livelihood.
At that time we thought what can we do to increase our livelihood so then we thought of tourism. – Mallika
There is so much to learn from the women of the mountains because ultimately they are not just contributing to their own growth as individuals but also as a whole community. And in that progress, they also help in sustaining the beauty that surrounds them in the form of nature.
This is an all-women tour led by Antara Chatterjee, founder of Little Local in collaboration with SheThePeople.TV