WOMEN CAN DO EVERYTHING IF THEY
GET THE CHANCE
“If I continue with my business and farming, I will be on top. No one can stop me!” said Pinky Besra when we visited her last year to see her progress. Three years ago she harvested only around two months of food each year from her family’s land, and their only asset was a very old bicycle.
Pinky is 35 years old and lives in Fulberia Village in West Bengal, India. To earn enough money for her family of five, Pinky and her husband would travel three to four times a year to Bardwan to find wage labor to support their family. Often Pinky had to bring her children along, preventing them from continuing their studies. To make things worse, in 2011 Pinky’s husband was admitted to a nearby hospital for severe abdomen pain. Pinky had to take out a INR 5000 loan from a moneylender to pay for his medical costs. When she joined the Sirjeo Sangsar Mahila Samilty self-help group three years ago, she still owed that debt.
Upon joining the Trickle Up program, she planned to lease good quality land to begin more agricultural activities. Initially, Pinky invested INR 5000 in land and INR 3500 in agricultural inputs to cultivate several types of vegetables during two seasons. She began using the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) method, which is an improved way to cultivate rice that produces 2-3 times more rice if all steps are followed properly, including nursery raising, sowing, weeding, and water treatment. Previously, Pinky couldn’t use the lift irrigation facility in the village because she didn’t have enough money to invest in cultivation during the winter. Now, she is able to grow bitter gourd, potato, pumpkin, okra, and mustard over two seasons. She also raised and sold a pig, reinvesting the profit in her farming activities.
Additionally, she was initially encouraged by our partner staff at Jamgoria Sevabrata to sell spices, onion, and dry chili in a nearby market, but she was not yet confident enough to take on the risk. After her success with her farm and motivation from the SHG and mentoring, she finally decided to start selling spices and produce during her second year in the program. At first, her husband would sell their products at the market while Pinky sold locally to neighbors. Slowly, she built up the confidence to go alone to the market on her bicycle.
“I have understood that small businesses can only give more returns, so I planned to scale up my business activities. I usually sell spices, but when I get vegetables at a cheaper rate, then I buy and sell those at the market,” she explains.
Today, Pinky and her husband are both engaged in growing and selling produce and spices as their main occupation. She has invested another INR 2000, produces enough food to sell her own vegetables, and goes to the market 4-6 days a week. In the last three years, she has earned a total profit of INR 46,500.
“How can I fall back? I will only go ahead. Forget about the past, it will discourage us. You should look forward,” she said of her success.
Not only has Pinky increased her family’s income since joining Trickle Up’s program, but she has also become more assertive and vocal in her community. She attended a national workshop in Delhi in October and spoke to a large audience about how her life has improved since joining the project. She revealed that her success would not have been possible without the grant from Trickle Up and the support of Jamgoria Sevabrata staff.
From her inspiring story and personality, it’s clear to see why she has become an active member of her self-help group and a leader within her community.
“Earlier I thought, “What could I do being a woman?” but now I have realized women are no longer for subjugation. Women can do everything if they get the chance,” Pinky said to the audience.
Pinky Besra from West Bengal, India
Farmer, community leader, unstoppable force