Majuli is a flood affected island that witnesses destructive floods every year affecting thousands of families. Land erosion is a major issue that renders hundreds of families landless every year. But adding to the woes is the issue of lack of land rights for the families. About 70% of the families of Majuli do not have proper land rights. And this creates particularly a grave situation for women. Given the patriarchal nature of the community, women have no rights over the land that is mostly managed by women. Also, social stigmas like polygamy that is practised in the community further adds to the vulnerability of the women. Single or widowed women further face atrocities in the form of forced land grab by the other male members of the family.
We came across such instances through our previous interventions and hence, Ayang Trust developed this project with the support from The Nudge Foundation to support landless women farmers in acquiring land rights as well as a secure livelihood. The project was implemented in three phases.
The first phase was creating awareness amongst the communities on legal land rights. For the same we developed a street play with instances narrated by our women beneficiaries with an open ending. Post the play, we held discussions with the community about their thoughts on land rights to understand the community’s point of view. While there was largely a positive response, there was also some resistance from some community members. It was to address this that we moved to the second phase of the project.
The second phase involved developing 20 Maati Sakhis or the land leaders. They would be women leaders who had some prior leadership experience in their village with ample amount of influence over the villagers. Through the process, the selected 20 women underwent various training to understand the socio-legal aspects related to women and land rights, especially in Majuli’s context. Laws related to Hindu Succession Act, Domestic Violence Act and Child Marriage Act were simplified for the land leaders along with training on land documentation procedures through the Revenue Circle Office and the District Legal Service Authority. Post the training, the Maati Sakhis worked tirelessly to sensitise the community on land rights while also supporting the women to register family or government land in their names.
The last and final phase of the project was to secure livelihood opportunities for the women. A series of farm based training were organised in collaboration with the District Agricultural Office and Krishi Vigyan Kendra. There were trainings related to paddy, millets and vegetable cultivation. The farmers were also provided with high yielding variety of seeds from the department along with organic manure. The skill trained farmers were then collectivised under the Lekope Majuli Women Farmer Producer Company Ltd where they have started to sell their produce. The collectivisation has helped them secure a better price for their produce while tilling the land they own.
- Number of Villages covered: 15+
- Population covered: 1000+
- Land Leader/ Maati Sakhi: 20
- Number of land documents submitted: 150
- Number of farmers covered: 1000+