When Yasmin Arimbra was sixteen, her father told her she could not study further due to financial constraints. “Come and help me in the paddy field instead,” was the unequivocal injunction.
“It pained me to see girls my age going to school and building a future for themselves. I knew that I couldn’t expect more from our family’s deplorable situation. I was turning into the kind of person I had detested all my life, someone who is denied an education and deprived of all social activities,” says 35-year-old Yasmin, a native of Thennala panchayat in Malappuram district of Kerala.
But Yasmin is made of sterner stuff. Mistress of her own destiny, she is now the Managing Director of Thennala Agro Producing Company that grows and sells paddy. Her rice brand ‘Thennala’ has made inroads in the regional markets and is widely known for being chemical-free.
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Not only that, Yasmin has changed the lives of more than 500 women in the district by engaging them in farming activities, she has made them shareholders in her company.
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In the last fiscal year, the company made a profit of Rs 24 lakhs that was equally distributed among these shareholders.
Breaking the Mould
After clearing her ninth standard with good marks, Yasmin was excited about tenth standard for she knew that freedom awaited her in college. But, her father’s words shattered her dreams.
“Hundreds of thoughts, both positive and negative, crossed my mind. There was not a single person I could talk to or lean on. I was desperately looking for one hope, one signal to cling onto. Though a little late, help did come,” she shares.
The state government’s Kudumbrashree Mission reached Yasmin’s village in 2010. The mission is a social collective working towards women’s upliftment through awareness, training programmes and financial aid.
The collective also solves the problems of the members through weekly meetings. It encourages small-time enterprises by helping them open bank accounts, to begin with, and later, they help them in availing subsidised loans from banks.
The moment Yasmeen heard of the Kudumbrashree Mission, she was one of the first to join.
“I was not alone. There were so many girls and women who were confined to the four walls of their house. Amidst all the issues, I saw hidden aspirations, hopes and an eagerness to be a changemaker. Their stories became my inspiration to form my own identity,” informs Yasmin.
And her first plan was to revolutionise paddy cultivation in the village.