The trinidad Guardian / Eighty-two-year-old retired school teacher Rose Rajbansee is an institution in her home town of Plum Road Village, Manzanilla. The long-time community activist, advocate and volunteer has given her life to helping people in her area by promoting rural women’s challenges and empowering women to enhance their economic and social well-being.
“Miss Rose” or “Mum” as she is affectionately known by members of the community gives advice and counselling free to people who come to her landmark home which is still used as a community centre of\ sorts like in the old days where residents would meet to discuss issues affecting them.
Rajbansee, who also served as president of The Network of Rural Women Producers, T&T (NRWPTT), The Caribbean Network of Rural Women Producers and the T&T Federation of Women’s Institutes, has the honour of a building being named after her-
The Rose Rajbansee Centre for Training and Rural Development, in St Augustine. Speaking to the Guardian at her home on Wednesday, Rajbansee said: “I got my passion for agriculture from my parents, Deokeenanan and Shoon, my mother. I still have a few milking cows, I’m slowing down. I don’t milk them myself but someone comes to do it. “I still make dahi (yogurt), cottage cheese, ghee for Hindu prayers for people who purchase it for the ceremony. “My experience and knowledge teaching food and nutrition at Guaico Presbyterian School comes in handy making amchar, kuchela, wine, jam, jellies, syrup, mango cakes, bread and crumble which usually sell out early for the Mango Festival,” she beamed. She said when she was teaching, the Ministry of Education as an extension service gave classes in communities where women came out once a week on evening, and she was able to tutor them in food and nutrition mainly in the St Andrew county which afforded her the opportunity to travel and meet people in other areas. Rajbansee said women would come to learn at her house and in those days Government paid the “handsome sum” of $1.20 an hour for teaching in the ’60s. She said as a teacher she earned the “handsome sum” of $65 a month of which $5 was deducted towards her pension. Rajbansee said with that money she could buy a lot of staples, but people grew quite a lot of vegetables themselves and did not have to buy. She said one of the things villagers did in the early days was give or exchange surplus vegetables with one another. Rajbansee said she did not have any chronic diseases such as hypertension or diabetes, but recently she had a cataract operation. She has stopped teaching women in the communities for five years. She said she got “plenty sleep,” ate anything she wanted (roti with any vegetable but no meat on mornings), while lunch was rice or ground provision. Rajbansee still drives to the nearby shop. Rajbansee said there was no “cooking gas” or kerosene stoves as a young girl growing up with her parents so they cooked with wood on a chulha and the ashes were used to clean the wares. She said a dam was constructed by the local community led by her father, the owner of the land where the spring was located in the 1950s that provided clean drinking water to the villagers of Plum Mitan for more than 50 years before it was turned over to WASA. When asked if she had any advice for the younger generation, Rajbansee said: “Be truthful to yourself and all else will follow.”