By: Sanjoy Patnaik, Landesa
An innovative program created by the state government of Odisha and Landesa is helping thousands of women climb out of extreme poverty in Odisha, India. The solution comes in the form of Women’s Support Centers. This program relies on government Anganwadi workers (child and mother health workers) to identify single, landless rural women, such as widows and abandoned women to help them receive land, training, job cards and other important government services through the centers.
In rural India where agriculture is the main source of economic opportunity, a woman who has rights over the land on which she lives and works has the ability to control and invest in that land to increase agricultural productivity. A woman can therefore grow more nutritious food for herself and her children, as well as sell some of that food to increase their income.
That is why 23 of these centers have already been established and are serving thousands of women from surrounding villages— just two years after the first pilot center opened on International Women’s Day in 2011. The impact has led the state government to scale this program by opening 26 more centers in Odisha. Work begins on the new centers in March 2013; centers will be completed by August 2015.
In all, thousands of women will now have access to government services and programs thanks to these centers. The specially trained center staff ensures that each woman applies for a host of government programs such as work cards, nutrition programs, and agricultural extension services. Those who are eligible to receive land, also receive small plots of land they can live on and farm, to help them provide for their children.
When Durga lost her husband, his brothers claimed the family’s land as their own. After considerable pleading she was allowed to continue farming only a tiny plot that barely yielded enough for her family to eat. Durga, with her three sons, lived at the mercy of her brother-in-law. The fear of being kicked off her family’s land haunted her daily. When her sons left in search of work, they never returned. She was left alone.
As a result of the Women’s Support Center outreach worker, Durga’s fears were put to rest. She received her own plot of land with her name on the title, which assured her a permanent home, a small plot of land to grow vegetables and fruits and enough left over to earn a little money by selling the surplus. “I am secure now. I don’t fear getting evicted anymore,” proclaims Durga with newfound confidence.
Durga is one of 11 women who have received land titles in the pilot phase of this project. 500 more women are waiting to receive a land title from the government any day now. 798 women are eligible to receive titles to land from the government—158 will get title to the current land they are using. 640 will get land nearby their current locations.
Another 4,043 women have met with works from the Centers to be informed about government services, in addition to determining if they are eligible for land.
To help support these Centers, please visit our Catapult project page.
Flickr photo via Landesa Global