Women in India

Tilwa from Mothiachak village:
"We enjoy sitting together, encouraging each other. It is great fun going for trainings, dharmas and so many different events. There is no need now to go to the cruel money-lenders as we know how to do business. Our work in the fields is indispensable in growing food for thousands of people. We dalit women have dignity and want to fight for our rights. "

Women empowerment - advocacy for women's rights and gender sensitization - is at the very core of Nari Jagran Manch / Dalit Women Power (DWP).

India is a traditional society that is still very much based on the Hindu caste system.

Unfortunately, women are also faced with a deeply entrenched sexism. Although much has changed in the last few decades, most Indian girls, especially the ones of lower castes, still do not get the same level of educaction as their brothers. Marriages are arranged and girls marry as teenagers. In Bihar, families are still very large. Women have an average of 5 children.

Because parents are expected to pay dowry for their daughters, girls can be a tremendous economic burden on families. Girl children are neglected. Infanticide (among the poor in some parts of India) and sex-determination by ultra-sound and abortions of female fetuses (among the wealthier) are still quite common in India.

38% of the population in the Gaya District belongs to the dalit castes. They are also known as Harijans or untouchables and literally live on the margins of society. Traditionally, they are the unorganized, landless labourers in a semi-feudal, agrarian set-up. Bodh Gaya's development as an international tourist center has pushed the Dalits further down the poverty line. Illiteracy, impoverishment and de-humanising conditions of life are the crippling factors for the Dalit population in the context of an aggressive tourist market. Dalit women and girl children are the most vulnerable groups,
subject to different forms of exploitation.

A women's group at an informal meeting.

Women Empowerment at DWP

DWP organises training groups for collective action at the grass-roots level. These classes include topics such as:

Basic Literacy and Numeracy. Many women are not only illiterate but are also unable to recognize the value and count money. These classes enable the women to read Hindi and to recognize numbers and to do simple calculations.

Health & Nutrition. Malnutrition is very common in Bihar. These classes teach women how to feed their families more healthily taking into consideration their very limited budgets. Thei also learn about basic hygiene and health measures they can take to protect their families from illness.

Awareness sessions on women's rights: demands for just wages and poverty reduction, government schemes, decentralised local self-rule. DWP ntervenes in cases of atrocities against women.

Education of girl children in 25 non-formal village centres.

An important aspect of women empowerment is fostering economic independence. DWP has a well-established micro-credit program to give their members secure acces to low interest loans.
(Click to learn more.)

Organic Farming
Virtually all women who are members of DWP are farmers. Most of them work as agricultural labourers and own only very samll amounts of lands on which they cultivate their own vegetables. DWP teaches
organic farming techniques. The goal is to increase yields and improve soil fertility, while decreasing dependence on artificial fertilizers and pesticides. (Click to learn more.)

DWP also engages in the following activities:

Installation of water-pumps for clean drinking-water. A near-by water pump can greatly relieve women from the time consuming and exhausting chore of hauling water from far away. The installation of a water pump costs about $200. If you are interested to sponsor a water pump, click here.

Collaboration in NGO networks, environmental campaigns and People's Movements.

Community leaders teach a session on gender equity.
Sister Mary and her community leaders at a theater performance to sensitize women on issues of gender violence and women's rights.


Audience members watching the theater performance

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