Rooftop garden unlocks brighter future for Indian girl

The other day, I came across this lovely short film which really moved me. In just 10 minutes, not only did it sum up a harsh reality that many young women have to accept, but it also conveyed a sense of hope for the life that we would want every girl to have…

 

After My Garden Grows, a short documentary from Oscar winner Megan Mylan tells the story of Monika, a rural Indian teenager growing food to feed her family, and the seeds of her own independence, in a tiny rooftop garden. Monika grows vegetables and sells them at a nearby market. To most this is nothing extraordinary, but it has had a life-changing impact on Monika’s life.

 

The documentary follows her as she earns money to pay school fees and avoid an early marriage. Monika is one of more than 40,000 girls who participate in the Girls Project, a partnership between the government of West Bengal and the non-profit Landesa. The Girls Project aims to reduce the risk of child marriage, keep girls in rural areas in school and empower them socially and economically by educating them about their rights, as well as teaching them land-based livelihood skills such as organic gardening.

Agricultural growth is particularly effective in reducing hunger and malnutrition. Many depend on agriculture and related activities for a significant part of their livelihoods. Agricultural growth involving smallholders, especially women, will be most effective in reducing extreme poverty and hunger when it increases returns to labour and generates employment for those who are underprivileged.

 

Shining Hope Foundation is also driving forward its ‘Kitchen Gardening Programme’. The scheme addresses the high incidence of malnutrition and extreme poverty amongst rural farmers in India, by encouraging them to ‘grow your own’.

 

In the disadvantaged state of Bihar, where 80% of children below the age of five and 68% of women under 50 are famished, we have already provided 840 households with fruit plants and seeds, and 422 households with vegetable plants and seeds, across 18 villages. The resources provided include tomato, chilly, pumpkin, radish, ladies fingers, mango, lemon and guava.

 

As a result, 1000 kitchen gardens have been created and maintained, not only in households but also within local schools, where the responsibility for maintaining the gardens lies with the students. The school gardens provide ingredients for a well-balanced nutritious lunch time meal for many children who would otherwise be surviving on rice and pulses with very low nutritional value. The project has been set-up so that 50% of the produce grown in the families’ kitchen gardens are kept aside for their consumption, and the rest sold in the market to earn some additional income.

 

At Shining Hope Foundation we believe that rural women must be empowered to combat the fundamental causes of poverty and poor health through income generation programmes and awareness building. We shall address the issues of poverty, unemployment in rural areas and we need your help to do that. A tiny investment in young women can make a huge difference.

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