The government official who once mocked Yasmin Arimbra at a meeting convened by the Community Development Society (CDS) would now get up in respect whenever he sees her. It is this commoner who deserves the credit for transforming Thennala, a quaint village in Malappuram, into one of Kerala's noted agricultural centres. Yasmin heads the Thennala Agro Producer Company which produces organic rice which is even served at the secretariat in Thiruvananthapuram. She is the representative of the common woman who has found herself empowered through the illustrious projects and ventures of the Kudumbashree. Yasmin also runs the Blooms School, which takes care of 36 differently abled kids in the panchayat.
It was in 2011 that Yasmin took the membership in Kudumbashree. Soon, she became the CDS chairperson and happened to attend a meeting where the participants were discussing about farming. When she said that she was interested in agriculture, the government official, who presided the meeting, asked her a few questions. Yasmin, however, didn’t know the answers of it. The official, who laughed at her, mockingly suggested that she should better wash vessels at home rather than being a part of the various activities of the Kudumbashree.
Yasmin, who was determined to prove that she is an able and strong woman, began farming with the help of a few other women in the locality. In just a year, Thennala was selected as the best Kudumbashree unit in Malappuram.
The group had leased about 126 acres of vacant fields and began cultivating it. Women, who knew a thing or two about farming and those who had no idea at all, stood strong to pen an epic tale of success and perseverance. The farmers' club was formed in 2012 and the Thennala Agro Producer Company in 2015, with Yasmin as its managing director. 500 persons purchased the shares of this company by investing Rs 1000 each. The farming was done by meeting the expenses from one's own pocket. The krishi bhavan supplied the seeds and fertilizers on subsidy. The company would purchase paddy, directly from the farmers, by paying them more than the market value. The paddy would then be marketed as the Thennala brand. The organically produced rice soon became popular and people from all over the state come here looking for the unique Thennala brand.
While visiting homes as part of their agriculture campaign, Yasmin noticed that there were differently abled children at many houses. Most of them were abandoned by their fathers as the children were born with disabilities. Their mothers, in tears, told her that they couldn’t go outside to work, leaving these kids alone at home. Moved by those mothers’ plight, Yasmin decided to open a special school to take care of the differently abled children in the panchayat. 36 differently abled students were admitted to the school in the beginning. However, the school had to be shut down, after a few months, as Yasmin found it extremely difficult to juggle responsibilities between the Kudumbashree, company and the school. The mothers came again, requesting her to re-open the school. Some of them were even angry at for closing down the school which benefited their kids. This prompted Yasmin to take a firm decision to dedicate her life for those kids and re-opened the school. On 1st March, Yasmin opened the Blooms School in a rented building. She paid the rent, teachers’ salary and other expenses from her own pocket. Meanwhile she resigned as the chairperson of the CDS.
Yasmin says that at least Rs 31,000 is required every month to run the school. Many kind-hearted people help her financially by making donations to meet the monthly expenses. In some months, when no one helps, Yasmin borrows money to pay the rent and give salaries for her teachers. Now, Yasmin is all set to venture into a new business to find proper funds to run the school. She hasn’t given up the activities of the agro company and the Kudumbashree as well.
Yasmin was severely upset when she dropped out of school as a kid. However, later, she passed the class 10 equivalency exam and then scored high marks for plus two as well. Now she is studying for her bachelor’s degree in the distance education program offered by the University of Calicut.
“Most of the women, who are homemakers, in my village have now become financially independent through agriculture. It would run smoothly even if Yasmin is not active in it. But, my kids need me. Now, their mothers can go for work with peaceful hearts, not worrying about the kids. They are able to leave their children, especially girls, safely here. I hope and pray that this school won’t be shut again,” said Yasmin, holding her kids closer.
Yasmin is the younger daughter of Areembraveetil Alavi and Khadeeja.