Success Story: Empowering women in the mint supply chain: Meet Usha Devi
Usha Devi is a mint farmer in Mubarkapur village in Zaidpur cluster of Barabanki District in India. She is also a project participant in the co-created Shubh Mint Project. For Usha, Shubh Mint provides more than an economic lifeline, it empowers her to improve a difficult living situation.
Prior to joining Shubh Mint, Usha, like many women in rural India, was not allowed to make decisions related to her own finances and was severely disenfranchised at the household level. Despite her husband owning a ½ acre plot that he rents to other farmers, Usha was prohibited from using any of his income for household expenses. Her family suffered – her daughters were not allowed to go to school. The situation became so dire for Usha that she would sacrifice her own health to save money, often denying herself food for days at a time. Sadly, her husband saw his money as his alone, and refused to consider the welfare of his family.
When Tanager’s co-created project with Mars Wrigley began working with farmers in Mubarkapur, Usha was initially reluctant to participate. But thanks to the Tanager extension officers who live close enough to regularly check in on the farmers, Usha was persuaded that Shubh Mint’s Self-Help Groups – one aspect of the project designed specifically for women – could be an opportunity for her to take control of her finances.
Tanager recognizes that women farmers are not always educated on their rights generally and are often not empowered in terms of their finances. To address this issue, Tanager helps women farmers organize into Self-Help Groups. In these small groups (10-15 members per group), women have the chance to converse in a safe and productive setting while learning valuable skills. Tanager’s extension officers help the women learn about new and sustainable farming techniques, save money collectively, and manage their individual finances. These Self-Help Groups also provide women with a forum to discuss their rights at the household level. At their core, Self-Help Groups are about women’s solidarity and empowerment.
As Usha began participating in her local Self-Help Group, she began saving small amounts of money while learning about better mint farming techniques and women’s rights. With moral support from her fellow SHG members she leased a 0.3-acre plot of land to farm herself where she was able to produce and sell 20 litres of mint oil. Usha is using this income for the education of her daughters who have returned to school. With diligence, courage, and some support, Usha is working towards a better future for her and her family. .