• Wed. Jul 24th, 2024

Anti-elephant solar fence turns tool for women empowerment in remote Meghalaya village

A small group of women, mostly housewives in a tiny tribal hamlet in West Garo Hills area of Meghalaya bordering Assam’s Goalpara district, habitually keeps a watchful eye on a single-strand solar-energised fence that shields their village and homes from imminent invasion by wild elephants after the dusk.

These village women often help their menfolk in keeping the solar-powered fence intact and well maintained as per the training provided by a team from Aaranyak (www.aaranyak.org) during the installation.

“We know, the fence is fragile and must be kept well-guarded so that wild elephants can’t cause harm to it and nothing falls on it rendering it ineffective. Though it is not a permanent solution to the problem of conflict with wild elephants, as on date it is the only means to keep our village protected from wild elephants which used to make our life full of panic and fear before the fence was installed,” said Ayan Debi Rabha, vice-president of Solar Fence Management Committee in tiny Borogobal Village having 24 households.

The solar fence management committee has two more women from the village – Saima Rabha (general secretary) and Jayanti Rabha (treasurer). A group of women in the village were trained on managing and operating the solar-fence so that they can shoulder the responsibility in absence of the village men in the time of need and emergency situation.

In fact, a timely action by one of these empowered women in switching on the power source of the fence led to saving the life of a villager from threatening wild elephants on a recent occasion as gathered during an interaction with these women.

A 1.2 km single-strand solar-powered fence was installed in Borogobal village in in November last year (2023) by Aaranyak- British Asian Trust with support from Darwin Initiative to protect the village in the wake of frequent invasions by wild elephants that threw normal life out of gear and created an atmosphere on panic and terror after every dusk.
“All we villagers used to take shelter together in one house in the village every night before the solar-fence was installed to keep the wild elephants away from the village. We can now work at home, take care of children and other family members at peace after dusk. The life and general health of villagers have improved a lot as uninterrupted sleep is possible for all of us at night as on date,” said Jayanti Rabha.

Today one hardly comes across anyone on the gravel road on a summer afternoon while travelling to this remote and sleepy tribal village. The village women are seen conversing leisurely in the courtyards of their homes while children are enjoying their time playing around. The menfolk are apparently taking rest after a hard day’s work on the paddy field since early morning.

Solar fence management committee general secretary Saima Rabha who regularly goes to attend her duty at Anganwadi Centre said, “ The villagers have resumed their social and cultural life at night without any fear because of the fence.”

The solar-fence besides protecting the villages, has also contributed towards empowerment and confidence building of these women in respect of shouldering social responsibility.

The treasurer of the committee Saima Rabha has been very efficiently collecting fence maintenance funds of Rs 50 per household every month and some of the women have even become capable of carrying out minor repairs of the fence when the need arises.

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