HOME: Nari Jagran Manch / DWP

Hasina Bano from Bhagalpur village:
"Before I became a member of Nari Jagran I hardly moved out of my village. Now I find a great experience to come for meetings in other villages, to listen to other women and to tell my story. It is good to go to the Bank and the Block, we learn much. All of us women are the same, of whatever caste or religion."

Nari Jagran Manch / Dalit Women Power (DWP): an organisation for women, by women
DWP is commited to educate and empower poor rural women around Bodh Gaya (Bihar, India) in their quest for greater self-reliance, economic sustainability, freedom of expression, and women's rights.

DWP fosters the spirit of community in the villages by organizing women's groups that base their values and teachings on gender-justice, inter-connectedness, freedom and human dignity.

Women who join DWP pay a one-time membership fee of 25 Rupees (60 US cents). In return, they become members of a vast women-support network and have access to educational classes as well as a micro credit progam. Each member village holds regular support group meetings. The modest membership fee allows DWP to partly self-sustain their micro credit progam. More importantly, it gives the women a sense of dignity: They do not depend on alms to better their lives but instead improve their lives by using their own means and by supporting each other. In their women's groups, the members gain a new sense of freedom & strength and individually.

DWP employs 6 community workers on a part time basis. Thanks to the programs Sister Mary and her community workers offer, the members of the organisation can improve the quality of life for themselves and their families. They also earn the respect in their village communities. Because of that, DWP is also highly regarded by the village men.

Sister Mary (left) with some of her community workers 

Women in Bodh Gaya, Bihar
The majority of the members of DWP are illiterate and belong to the 'Dalit' castes. These are the very lowest in the Hindu cast system. 38% of the population in the Gaya District are Dalits. 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 many different forms of exploitation. (More background information about Gaya and Bihar)

Currently, Nari Jagran Manch - Dalit Women Power with its pro-poor commitment reaches out to some 1500 Dalit women-members organized in 120 groups. On average, each DWP member represents a family of 10 to 15 persons. That means that DWP reaches up to 12'000 people, changing their lives for the better.

Sister Mary (left) and three of her community workers

Sister Mary, the founder of DWP
The Indian Founder of Nari Jagran Manch - Dalit Women Power, Sister Mary Lobo, is a Christian nun. She grew up in Kerala, a Southern Indian state famous for its exemplary policies in women's equity and education. Sister Mary's work and life have been greatly influenced by Mahatma Ghandi's philosophy of non-vilent protest and transformation. As a nun, she has taken the vow of poverty and lives very simply in Bodh Gaya. When Sr Mary came to Bodh Gaya some 10 years ago, she found that all the non-governmental groups were male-dominated and she founded Nari Jagran Manch - Dalit Women Power, a women's organisation - for women, by women.

Activities and Programmes
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 & money 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.

Micro-banking and micro-enterprises credit programmes. (Click to learn more.)

Awareness sessions on women's rights: demands for just wages and poverty reduction, government schemes, decentralised local self-rule..Intervenes in cases of atrocities against women; (Click to learn more.)

Organic farming techniques. Increasing yields and improving 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 (see picture on the left). 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.

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

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

Installation of smokless chulas (cooking stoves) and subsidized sale of pressure cookers.

Sources of Support
A modest annual budget to support the eight community workers is financed by a Swiss Non-Profit Organisation (support Dalit Women Power). Training programmes, installation of water pumps, micro-credits, are financed by contributions from donors from all over the world. Members become co-owners of the group's savings from the membership fees. The membership fee is 20 Rp per month per woman. Some of the 100 groups own - at their level - a modest fortune. Who ever needs money, can apply for a micro credit. That way, women are no longer a prey to money lenders and loan sharks.

DWP gladly accepts donations for its programs. Click here to find out more.


Women's group at an educational class

DWP pays for the installation of waterpumps.

A typical clay house. Cow dung is drying on the tree stems. The cow dung is used as fuel for cooking.

  Sister Mary on her way to visit villages. Sister Mary does not own a car and often visits her members on foot.
  The streets in Gaya are often in very poor condition. The women walk or use bicycles to transport their goods.

Sister Mary visits a small school class in one of the villages.

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