Women traditionally play a central role in any indigenous communities. NESFAS highlights the role of women as custodians of our agrobiodiversity and foodways. Today, March 8th marks the 106th anniversary of Women’s Day across the globe and for the indigenous communities, it honors the many women who are the undeniable protectors of the biodiversity. Women in Meghalaya bestow many factors responsible in bringing well-being in our community. They play a crucial role as protectors of the biodiversity, but are also the ones enhancing and conserving indigenous practices of seed keeping or even foraging activities.
Kong Bamonlang Shabong a custodian farmer from Pyrda Village, East Khasi Hills Meghalaya, is a proud Khasi women representing a matrilineal society. She is of the belief that men and women are both responsible for contributing well-being in the society. However, she claims that women take the responsibility of seed keeping holistically. As a mother who cherishes biodiverse agriculture, she personally motivates the people around her to contribute in sustaining these practices for the future generations.
We have, in the midst of our region, many inspiring women who keep up with their tradition and commit towards prosperity and welfare. From primary food producers to care givers to performing different roles, women matter and can make a difference. Even their tiniest contribution counts as serenity surrounds them.
Kong Plantina Kharmujai, proud owner of the first Mei Ram-ew café in Khweng village, Ri Bhoi, transformed her tea and food stall in line with the Slow Food principles of good, clean and fair food. She serves fresh local food; vegetable gathered from her garden and also wild edibles foraged from nearby forests. Her café features traditional food from Ri-Bhoi which is strikingly different from the rest of the state, but most importantly the café has now become the hub of the village whereby many community members would drop in before they set off to work in the morning and lastly gather again every evening for a cup of tea while she serves tea with local snacks like Putharo or Pumaloi.
“The women in our village take care of farming, livestock, foraging, chores, fodder, fuel, children and many more” says Kong Iolin Kharsyntiew of Mawhiang Village, East Khasi Hills, Meghalaya. When asked about the primary occupation of the community, the men rely on daily wages activity whereas the women handled the agriculture in Mawhiang Village.
Indigenous women are also recognised as the key traditional knowledge holders of a community. They are the ones usually engaged in simple story telling practices or share knowledge with their younger generations. Kong Slibon Nongrum of Laitsohpliah, an illustrious indigenous knowledge holder was an eminent soul who passed away at the age of 83. She shared with her children and grand children best of knowledge with the hope to responsibly carry forward.