Inspirational woman – inspirational women
Sometimes you meet someone who makes you see things in a different way. I am very fortunate that I work in a role* where I get to meet inspiring people all the time, people who give me a reason to see the world in a new way. In November I met Rita in Sugia, Jharkhand in India. Rita is in many ways a very ordinary woman; she has children that she loves, she goes to work, she looks after her home… In other ways Rita is totally extraordinary. She lives in a part of India where women are often treated as second class citizens, especially women from minority tribal groups. Rita is breaking the mould and being bold, she and other women are changing the dismal status quo.
For many of the families living in Sugia, poverty and discrimination marks their lives. Levels of illiteracy are high, especially among the women, and it is difficult for those women to make enough money to support their children. For most people eking out a living in the coal fields, or seasonally on small farms, life is precarious. Some of the women I spoke to in Sugia described occasions when they been beaten or verbally abused in their homes or in the street simply for being a woman.
I journeyed to Sugia with All We Can to learn more about the lives of the women its local partner the Srijan Foundation supports. The Srijan Foundation identifies areas like Sugia, the communities others would rather forget about, where they feel that a difference can be made. It then sets up Self Help Groups (SHGs) with groups of between 12 and 15 vulnerable women. These groups act as a catalyst for change in the community, starting with small simple steps. Women are offered training in their groups that enables them to start breeding small animals like chickens and goats for sale, they also receive information on their human rights so that they can seek out the government support they are entitled to.
Rita Devi is one of the women in this SHG, small and stoic and always immaculately dressed. Rita told me of the life she used to have before the Srijan Foundation set up the SHG in Sugia: “I had no confidence, I was quiet and scared to talk. I did not even have the confidence to go to the bank by myself.” This is hard to believe now as Rita has gone on to become one of the most active women in her village. She runs a small nursery school group, she is the secretary for her SHG, she offers advice to other women on maternal health care and she rears goats to bring in extra income for her family.
She is not alone in this quiet but powerful revolution taking place in Sugia. Other women in her SHG are standing for local election and taking part in regional politics, some have started their own businesses and others have joined together to take action on community problems. As I said earlier Rita is extraordinary because stepping out and being bold is going against the grain in Sugia.
Find out more about Rita and the work of All We Can’s partner in Sugia at www.allwecan.org.uk.
*All views here are my own and not those of All We Can – though I am proud to work for them!