SHANTONA’S FIGHT FOR ECOSYSTEM CONSERVATION
Ms. Shantona Chakma is a 38-year-old Karbari (Traditional Village Head) of Ramharipara, Ghilachari Union, Naniarchar Upazila, Rangamati. She is a member of the Central Committee of the CHT Village Common Forest (VCF) Network and Secretary of the CHT Women Headman (Traditional Mouza Head) and Karbari Network.
Her family forced her to get married at 17, and she couldn’t continue her studies after standard VIII due to the workload at her in-law’s house. She is a sensible woman and aware of the duties of family and nature. Her contribution to society was appreciable, reflecting her selection as a female Karbari. She started leading the decision-making process of all disputes, especially against women. She cooperated with the male Karbari and attended all meetings organized in her village. As secretary of the CHT Women Headman and Karbari Network, her energetic performance and dedication made her a member of the central committee of the CHT VCF Network that actively works to conserve natural forests and resources, monitors VCF management, and protects safe habitats for wildlife. Shantona received several pieces of training, participated in workshops, meetings, seminars, conferences, dialogues, and learning visits, and conveyed messages on deforestation and watershed conservation at her locality and beyond.
She observed that climate change had impacted her life for the last two decades, and women are the affected front-liners, especially in the landslide that killed more than 19, including children. She understood improper land use for pineapple production loosened the soil texture and caused landslides. So, it would be convenient to stop pineapple production urgently. She developed sustainable Village Common Forests and registered the VCF under Rangamati Hill District Council. She also observed how VCF’s property became personal property and was sold, ultimately decreasing the number of VCFs in Naniarchar from 15 to 8. She monitored these 8 VCFs and disseminated the lessons learned by visiting successful VCFs in Bandarban and other Upazilas in Rangamati. She continued conveying conservation messages received from projects funded by USAID and implemented by UNDP to VCF committees. She mainly focused on the management plan of VCF’s eco-friendly tree plantations and monitored their activeness through regular fee payments to the VCF Network. Besides, she worked hard to register more VCFs under this Network to conserve natural forests through motivational initiatives and fighting against teak plantations. As a woman, she faced challenges in every movement while returning home at night. Other female Karbari were jealous of her opportunities after her selection as Karbari. Her fight against the ill motives of headmen facilitating deforestation started at her adolescent age. Her commitment to ecosystem conservation transformed her with leadership and recognition. She is a Nirbhaya.
(Photo credit: Facebook page)