New Delhi : A people without children would face a hopeless future; a country without trees is almost as helpless, said Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th US President.
A little over one century later and some 13,000 km away in India, bow and arrow wielding Jamuna Tudu, a fierce woman who knows the value of trees, protects the forest from the timber mafia like it was her own brother.
She even ties a rakhi to the trees on every Rakshabandhan for their well-being.
Speaking at “enGendered Dialogues…Women Changing the World”, Tudu remembered looking at the thinning forest on one of her runs to collect firewood several years ago, and realisation dawned upon her to save the area.
Born in Odisha, she settled in Muturkham village of Jharkhand’s East Singhbhum district after marriage.
Surrounded by 50 hectares of forest land, Muturkham was plagued by the forest mafia and poachers before Tudu decided to take the matter in her hands.
“I didn’t want to see the area lose the forest cover,” says the 37-year-old activist, who has spent almost two decades protecting the forest.
As she formed the ‘Van Suraksha Samiti’ (Forest safety committee) in 1998 with a group of five women, her pledge to save the forest was met with opposition from the villagers. “Initially, there was opposition even from the villagers as they asked me why I wanted to save the forest as it was the source of firewood,” she recalled.
But she managed to persuade them to use only the smaller branches as fuel and leave the bigger ones untouched. Now, she has more than 300 such groups.