Dwarkatai Waghmare is a sugarcane cutter, an agricultural labourer and also a cultivator of local varieties of bajra (pearl millet) grown on a small plot of land that she has acquired through a long struggle. As a Dalit woman she has faced the burden of caste and patriarchy.
With leadership training supported by AID, she gained confidence to speak to government officers and apply for benefits for which she and others like her were eligible. During the COVID-19 pandemic she confronted officials to ensure ration distribution and also dispelled people’s fear around COVID vaccines and persuaded them to come to vaccination camps.
Recently she has registered and helped others register with the state Cane Cutters’ Welfare Board which gives the workers access to health care and insurance schemes, tools required for harvest work, and residential schools for their children.Give today Take Action
Empowering cane cutters has the potential to break the cycle of severe exploitation that takes the form of child labor and child marriage, long hours in backbreaking conditions, uninidicated hysterctomy and other ordeals workers go through to be employable. When they are not at the mercy of the contractors, they have more say in their work and can advocate for policies that will make their livelihoods remunerative and sustainable.
In a struggle led by women like Dwarkatai, women working in agriculture throughout Maharashtra are standing up for their rights to land, to be recognized as farmers, and to social security. These demands are part of the Gadchiroli Manifesto ratified in October (see topmost picture).
Dwarkatai is part of a new resurgence of farmers engaged in challenging the mainstream paradigm in agriculture. Following the principles of agro-ecology they are practicing self-reliant farming, or svavlambi shet. While doing so they are also challenging the structures of caste and patriarchy.
Be it agrarian distress, covid, violence against women or climate chaos, through every crisis, these women have found inner resources and strength through unity. It is a privilege for AID to partner with such leaders who with their indomitable spirit utilize the support we can provide through skill-building workshops and multiply its effects to benefit their communities.Give today Take Action