Women who unite in solidarity and take the reins inspire subsequent generations. Gaura Devi and other villagers hugged the trees as a kind of protection in 1974. This "Chipko Movement" victory gained notoriety throughout the world. A few decades later, in the Assam, Kamrup district, a new female-led movement made history. Kamrup is split approximately evenly in half by the Brahmaputra, a perennial river in the Himalayas. Paddy farms, coconut trees, and bamboo are all over the banks. The surroundings are lush and beautiful.
A young lady, Purnima Devi Barman, who spent her early years on these banks with her late grandmother Padumi Devi, saw nature as her classroom. One of her favourite pastimes was singing traditional songs with her grandmother about the local birds. As she says about the marshes and the storks that used to visit her neighbourhood, her eyes start to shine. Her inclination to preserve this variety was inevitable given that she had spent her childhood surrounded by the beauty of nature.
How A Group Of Women Came To Protect Birds
Dr. Barman's fascination with storks led her to pursue a PhD after earning a Masters in Zoology so she could study more about the bird that had played a significant role in her childhood. The Greater Adjutant, also called as Hargila in the local tongue, is Leptoptilos dubius.
The five-foot-tall Hargila is a scavenger bird that prefers big Kadam trees with a broad crown because the wide-spreading branches give it enough room to sit upright. The bird is listed as an endangered species by the IUCN. Dr. Barman simply intended to thoroughly study them, but a heartbreaking experience during her PhD trip inspired her to devote her life to conservation.
From a Bad Omen to a Symbol of Pride
Currently, there are roughly 600 Hargila birds and 220 nests nearby. More Nests are found in nearby villages. After being saved and treated, 12 birds were returned into the wild in March. The Hargila Army is made up of about 10,000 women who take part in programmes for bird rescue and conservation, educate people about the bird, and raise awareness. Even schools instruct kids about hargila. What led to this?
Dr. Barman brings a lovely piece of gamosa up near to the camera. The Hargila bird is embroidered on this traditional Assamese garment. Thanks to the army of women who grasped the significance of ecosystem balance, Hargila is today synonymous with Kamrup.
"The Greater Adjutant is a friend of the farmer; it keeps the number of rats and snakes on check. Every species is important for a healthy ecosystem," she stated. The breeding months are between September and April. The women of Hargila Army even organise baby showers for the birds with traditional food and prayer songs, like how they would celebrate a woman entering motherhood in their culture.
The energy and magnetism of Dr. Barman were responsible for this transformation. She organised games that raised awareness of biodiversity, started door-to-door awareness campaigns, and gave women a voice during traditional culinary competitions and dancing performances. The crowd started to crowd around her as she moved.
Dr. Barman's efforts are praised by Nani Rajbongshi, one of the significant women in the Hargila Army since 2013. "At first, I also thought Hargila was a filthy bird. However, I experienced a metamorphosis when I witnessed Purnima Baideu's profound love for the hargila birds and the natural world. Despite the fact that community conservation is a never-ending effort, because to her leadership, the communities are beginning to accept the bird as part of culture culture."
Dr. Barman is the face of Hargila Conservation, as is any conservation movement. Dr. Barman declares with much excitement, "When Hargila goes up the rung from the threatened status, our mission would be fulfilled!"
Creating a Pathway for Women in Conservation
Sampriti and Sanskriti Barman, who have followed their mother's progress in the field of conservation, think that Dr. Barman has provided a great role model for women. "Our mother had to ascend a 100-foot bamboo platform in order to watch and research the breeding behaviours of the birds. She easily scaled it and sat on it, all the while keeping an eye on us. She constantly leaves us speechless. She battles gender injustice, collaborates with others who have different viewpoints, and aspires to be the best version of herself. Although it has been a difficult road, she never quits up.
Awards and Recognition
Purnima Barman is affectionately known as the Hargila Baideu' (Stork Sister) by the reional community for her efforts for the birds.
- Purnima has won a number of international awards, including the Conservation Leadership Program's CLP Leadership Award (2015) and the Future Conservationist Award (2009, 2011).
- In 2016, Purnima received the UNDP India Biodiversity Award, the Royal Bank of Scotland RBS "Earth Hero Award" in the area of saving species, and the Balipara Foundation "Green Guru Award."
- For her work protecting greater adjutant storks, Purnima Devi Barman received the prestigious Whitley Awards in 2017, also referred to as the "Green Oscars."
- She was awarded the Naari Shakti Puraskar in 2018 by Ram Nath Kovind, the president of India.
Advice for Responsible citizens
She advises people to always start by saving what they can in their own backyards since, as her heart will continue to teach her, doing so will allow you to directly safeguard an endangered species. Additionally, your backyard may also contain significant biodiversity that we are unaware of. She frequently proclaimed that if we protect our backyards, nature will protect us.