An enthusiastic learner

Subodhini Hansda

“This mobile phone has changed my life. Not only do I learn how to farm properly through the Package of Practices (PoP), the preloaded application on the phone, I also teach the other participants in my area.”

About 48 kilometre away from the district headquarter of Pakur, Jharkhand, the village of Lalchua is located in the Maheshpur block. Subodhini Hansda belongs to this little village that has a total population of somewhere around 1,150 people. Usually a person who smiles a lot, she is a doting mother to two children, nine and six years old respectively and lives with her husband.

Subodhini is a small-time farmer, practicing agriculture in the small patch of land adjacent to her house. Having no knowledge of the technicalities of farming, the couple would end up growing very little amounts of usable produce. Neither was it enough to feed the family, nor to generate enough income to sustain themselves. “We used to just sow the seeds any way possible. Most of the crops died either from infection or because they were sown too close together and could not even grow properly. It seemed like we would always remain poor. We did not have any other source of income,” shares Subodhini.

But things did change for Subodhini and her family in 2015. Trickle Up started working in Pakur in order to enable women living in ultra-poverty practice sustainable livelihood options and it was then that Subodhini was chosen as a project participant. Enrolled into the Self Help Group of her village, her journey towards a better future started slowly, but surely. However, it was only in 2016 that things really started looking up for her. With the intervention of M-Powered, a project implemented by Trickle Up in partnership with TATA Communications, Subodhini received a seed grant of INR 3000 and then, the one thing that changed her life, a mobile phone.

Her interest to learn new things and her excitement of owning something as precious as a mobile phone turned her into an enthusiastic learner, and soon, she graduated into a Smart Sakhi from being a project participant. “This mobile phone has changed my life. Not only do I learn how to farm properly through the Package of Practices (PoP), the preloaded application on the phone, I also teach the other participants in my area. I am so confident handling the phone that I can now teach anyone the basic operations of the phone at any point in time,” beams Subodhini.

The phone has also saved her a lot of time, she says. It used to be a chore to travel huge distances to meet her parents and relatives, and often she used to remain out of touch with them. Now she doesn’t need to depend on face-to-face meetings to know how they are doing and share her daily news with them. Her support system is better connected and stronger.

“My husband doesn’t go out to work. The food we eat comes from the kitchen garden we have grown in our backyard. With the help of the PoP, I now know details like how much distance I should keep between seeds and how to save them from pests. Naturally the quality of the produce has improved drastically. Even if one plant gets infected somehow, the others don’t get infected from it because of the distance. We eat well now. Now that I know how to produce quality crops, I want to turn this into an income generating option for the family. Otherwise we are dependent on the honorarium I earn by being a Smart Sakhi. There is a huge water crisis in our area, and people say that it will only become worse in the coming years. When I hear these things, I am glad that I have learnt how to use water responsibly and I have been trained to re-use the water we use for bathing and washing for the farming as well,” says Subodhini.

Being the only earning member of the family is not an easy task. Especially when she has the responsibility of two young children on her shoulders and the dream of giving them a brighter future in her eyes. Subodhini is not only handling these tasks with a perpetual smile on her face, but is also determined to help change the lives of others around her. “Learning is effective only when you can share what you have learnt. I keep telling other participants to talk to people, to try and get more information, to keep learning. Before I got the phone and the trainings, neither was I so smart, nor did I speak to anyone or go anywhere. I meet new people all the time and I learn so much! I could never speak Hindi so well. Whatever I learn from the field staff, today I am confident that I can teach the other participants in my village. I know I can move ahead in life and I can help others move ahead in life as well. That is what has changed for me and so I want others’ lives to change for the better as well. I want to make all the other participants smart as well,” she signs off.

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