Bibi is a Special Person

Rice-farming woman blazes trail in ‘a man’s world’

March 21, 2010 | By | Filed Under News 

 

Bibi Jamila Munir is a ‘Special Person’

 “I have twenty grandchildren. My family is my life. Guyana is my life. I grew up here and I will die here. I love my work and there is nothing else I would rather do.”

By Leonard Gildarie
She rides bikes, drives tractors, manages her home and then works from morning till night in the backdam planting rice. Her outspoken manner also angers many a politician, regional official and business associate. But that’s just what you get with this week’s special person.


Bibi Jamila Munir of Good Hope, East Bank Essequibo, known to some as simply Mrs. Munir and others as Auntie Jamila, is also the only woman in the nine-member co-op of the Vergenoegen Rice Mill.
In 2007, the Guyana Rice Producers Association (RPA) also paid tribute to the farmer, acknowledging her contribution as a businesswoman to the rice industry by featuring her in the quarterly magazine, “The Farmer”.
This week, Kaieteur News has chosen Munir as our Special Person for her role as a businesswoman, as a mother and a wife.

Female rice farmer, Bibi Jamila Munir

Female rice farmer, Bibi Jamila Munir

So what make her so special?
Well, her no-nonsense attitude might be a good reason. For example, she accuses Guyanese men of not being man enough and challenged them to play a stronger role in business and the home.
“Our Guyanese men always like to put down their wives…that they should be seen and not heard. I fight against this.”
It was difficult to make contact with Mrs. Munir via land phones since she was constantly in the backdam attempting to manage the water situation brought on by the dry conditions associated with the El Niño phenomenon.


Munir grew up in the world knowing about hard work since her family had been in rice farming for the longest while.
“At age six, I started driving tractors. You have to understand that we were six sisters and one brother.”
There were cows to graze and rice to cut. She was forced to leave school at 13, leaving at daybreak and working long hours in the farm.
“My husband and I…we got married when I was 17. Those days, in the Indian tradition, girls got married around that age. My daughters got married at that age too.”
The couple had three children – two girls and a boy- and then adopted two boys.


It was in 1984 that Munir decided to attend her daughter’s wedding in New York. However, her family decided not to allow her to come back to Guyana as the situation had become difficult here.
Her husband and the rest of the children, including the two adopted boys, later migrated to New York.
However, in 1995, Munir and her husband returned to Guyana after being encouraged by the change in government.

Ready for a long day in the backdam.

Ready for a long day in the backdam.

“We bought out the properties of our family and went into rice farming in a big way.”
The Munirs currently control 500 acres of rice land in the East Bank Essequibo area.
According to Bibi Munir, her husband is a quiet man who “does not like to talk, talk much.”
That left his wife, an outspoken and driven person, to take the reins of the business running it with an iron fist.
They currently employ about 25 workers and quite a few have been given land to build homes.
“I am a representative of the RPA and the Water Users Association also. Many people come to me for help all the time. What makes me special? I don’t know. I guess it would be that I like to help people.”
A normal day in Munir’s life would make many a man feel somewhat inferior. But it is all routine for the businesswoman. “I get up at 4 in the morning – seven days a week. I have to wash, pray, clean up, wash clothes and still go to work. I don’t have a maid and although I have a washing machine, I wash by hand.”
Munir also finds time to mind her ducks and chickens and tend to her little garden in the front of her yard
She is in charge of issuing instructions to her employers and handles all the financial and logistical dealings for her rice farm.


“I negotiate sale of the rice and I go down to the rice mill every day.”
It is not an easy thing in rice industry. And Mrs. Munir admits this. “There is the rice price to contend with. The weather. Then it’s the workers.”
Then there are the long hours and the uncertainty. This crop was an extremely challenging one for the Good Hope area. Water for irrigation is scarce but the businesswoman has been almost living in the rice fields.
“I am happy to say that in this area, nobody lost any crop since we really pushed in a lot of hours. The government helped too with the pumping.”
Throughout it all, Munir is modest when speaking of her achievements.
“I don’t like pinpointing my help to others. I do it because that is who I am. The President knows. RPA knows. The Minister of Agriculture knows.”
As if the rice farming is not enough, Munir is heavily involved in her Muslim faith. Her mosque, whenever it is fasting time, would even send her food to the factory to break her fast in the evening. They too know of her work.
“I have twenty grandchildren. My family is my life. Guyana is my life. I grew up here and I will die here. I love my work and there is nothing else I would rather do.”
The businesswoman, in our estimation, personifies the very essence of what hard work and love of that work can achieve.


She has entered into what has been known to be a “man’s territory” and is not afraid to voice her opinions or roll up her sleeves and drive a tractor if the need arises. Her balancing of the business, family and social aspects of her life is something all Guyanese should be proud of.
Mrs. Munir is indeed a special person.

Original Post

 Crime has always been the reason so many of us stay away from that place, except for that it is a beautiful country. This is very sad and I hope those responsible are caught and the book thrown at them along with the noose.

 

Ole people who through work, sweat and tears, rain or shine should not die this way.  I hope they find these bandits and throw dem rass in a furnace to die a slow death. This is the government who promised people that they will bring crime to an end. Instead they are making crime their biggest industry.

Stormborn posted:

I thought you said you would never go back? I still maintain my family home and farm so I have a squat whenever I want. I never said I am going back there to live. 

So what about the house and farm,  are they being put to good use or just lying there idle.

Sheik101 posted:
Stormborn posted:

I thought you said you would never go back? I still maintain my family home and farm so I have a squat whenever I want. I never said I am going back there to live. 

So what about the house and farm,  are they being put to good use or just lying there idle.

Sheik, you sure you are ready for the 1000 word essay? You really want to flip the man out heh.

skeldon_man posted:

I am never going back to live there. May her soul Rest in Peace.

I would like to go back at some point. too many assets there. But the crime situation is way out of control that I'm seriously thinking if it's worth it.
Guyana is a dangerous place.

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