kerala: In Kerala’s Malappuram district, a 35-year-old school dropout is making headlines. Beating odds and fighting orthodoxy, Yasmin Arimbra has come a long way. She not only manages an agriculture produce company but also heads a school for differently-abled children and is pursuing a graduate degree.
And with her, in this journey, are 500 other women, from the Thennala panchayat in Malappuram, a Muslim majority district in north Kerala.
According to a report, Yasmin Arimbra heads The Thennala Agro Producing Company, which include 374 women farmers as shareholders who are engaged in paddy cultivation. She also handles the marketing of the “Thennala” brand of rice.
It began in 2012, after she became a member of Kerala’s Kudumbrashree Mission, a women empowerment programme implemented by the State Poverty Eradication Mission (SPEM).
Yasmin, as told In 2012, I was elected chairperson of the panchayat-level unit under Kudumbashree. At the time, it had 500 women as members but none was engaged in any productive activity. Besides, with most of the men employed in the Middle East, the region had vast tracts of uncultivated paddy fields.”
Along with these women, she leased the abandoned paddy fields for cultivation. They managed to get 126 acres of land that eventually grew to 522 acres.
While she was taking charge, men from her village had criticised her. They had repeatedly asked “whether a woman should engage in such activities.” She was also repeatedly discouraged for taking up paddy cultivation as it was considered a loss-making activity.
The project was backed by agriculture department, the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development and the Kudumbashree district mission, says report.
In September 2015, Yasmin and her associates floated the Thennala Agro Producing Company. The people who had initially ridiculed her three years ago patted her on the back. Yasmin, along with the women, began processing the paddy into rice and selling it in the market.
The company subsequently raised Rs 4.5 lakh. The Kudumbashree Mission chipped in with Rs 10 lakh and NABARD put in Rs 9 lakh over three years. The women farmers were then made the members of the board of directors.
According to company records, in the latest harvest season, Thennala Agro Producing Company paid Rs 24 lakh to 500 women farmers for the cost of paddy.
Yasmin, meanwhile, completed her Class 10 and 12 under the state literacy mission and is currently pursuing a long-distance course in Sociology. Between 2013 and 2014, she also set up Blooms, the only school for the differently-abled in the panchayat.
Along with paddy fields and her own life, Yasmin continues to transforming lives in Thennala.