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Holistic Empowerment of Tribal Women through Group Development Initiatives, West Bengal


Project Summary [Photo Gallery]

Holistic Empowerment of Tribal Women through Group Development Initiatives, West Bengal


Location: Suri Sadar subdivision, Birbhum district, West Bengal
Amount Supported: $ 19,488
Chapters: Philadelphia
Contact Person: Subhasree Basu (Philadelphia Chapter)

The tribal women in the region have found refuge in the only non-governmental organization operating in that area called Mohammed Bazar Backward Classes Development Society (MBBCDS), a non-profit, non-political, non-governmental, secular organization in West Bengal run by Mrs. Ayesha Khatun.

The goal of the program was to directly empower 1000 tribal women living in 16 villages in the Mohammed Bazar block of Birbhum district in West Bengal, India by adopting a holistic approach through group development initiatives. The specific goals of the program were as follows:

  • Data collection and data analysis
  • Formation, strengthening and capacity building of women self-help groups
  • Tackle the problem of mal-nutrition in women by nutrition garden initiative
  • Address problems of feminine hygiene using low cost sanitary napkin
  • Provide vocational training (e.g. tailoring, hand-embroidery) for income generation
  • Awareness generation and campaigns on various issues related to women
  • Provide psychological counseling to women to get out of domestic abuse problems
  • Provide legal support to women who have been victims of domestic violence
  • Background Information

    Situated in the Suri Sadar subdivision of Birbhum district in the Indian state of West Bengal is a small town called Sainthia. It is the home to one of the world’s oldest tribal groups called the ‘Santhals’. The Santhal tribal women for long have faced gender inequality in the society. The tribal women of the area are the most vulnerable and their lives have been impacted severely by the oppression related to gender, caste, religion, patriarchy and age-old customs. In all tribal hamlets, the sole priority of women is the survival of their families. Traditionally, tribal women were able to scrape though their survival with meager income/resources available in the area.

    The national socio-economic changes have created instability in the life of the tribal population all over the country. Besides, some of the new paradigms employing advanced technologies have proved as a curse for development of these marginalized tribals since they are illiterate, backward and far away from new technology, information and resources. Only a few tribal families are dependent on the small plots of land that produce an inadequate quantity of food crops due to poor farming practices.

    The survival of the majority families is dependent on daily wages, which are extremely under-paid in the operation area. In the absence of adequate means of employment and survival, the tribals are forced to borrow from vicious money lenders. These lenders exploit them by charging high interest rates and cheat with nefarious entries which land the tribals into a never ending misery. Many of the male members of the tribal families have chronic alcoholism issues, which leads them to frustration, violence against women and children in the family and inability to think for the betterment of their families. The vicious circle of poverty, debt, ignorance, illiteracy and fear of corrupt politicians has still kept the tribal women miles away from development.

    Project Impacts

    It has been 10 months since the program was implemented and the success of the program has been immense. The program created 18 self help groups that helped to organize women and give them leadership training. 43 leadership training meetings were held to train women in various activities such as vocational training or making sanitary napkins etc. The self help groups also helped in counseling women about their reproductive health and general awareness about HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. About 60% of the women targeted in this program have now a means for survival.

    The nutrition garden, sanitary napkin production and the vocational training activities not only benefit the women by augmenting their income, but are also useful in influencing their health and hygiene. Furthermore, support structures like self-help groups, psychological counseling and legal aid have been created to help distressed women. It is evident that here the problems are interconnected and need interconnected solutions.

    Today the MBBCDS women have a voice and have the confidence to run their families without depending on their male partner. DFW funds have supported an important initiative through AID to empower the MBBCDS tribal women with regard to finding a source of income, support and better and living. However we feel helping these women is like only scratching the surface of the problem. More needs to be done to help these women. With DFW’s support women have now challenged the orthodox views in their society and have gained the confidence to voice their thoughts and problems.


    Photo Gallery of the Project

    Photo Gallery: Holistic Empowerment of Tribal Women through Group Development Initiatives, West Bengal

    Women undergoing training for the self help groups

    Image 1

    Photo Gallery: Holistic Empowerment of Tribal Women through Group Development Initiatives, West Bengal

    Women in the process of making low cost sanitary napkins

    Image 2

    Photo Gallery: Holistic Empowerment of Tribal Women through Group Development Initiatives, West Bengal

    Women doing tie dye/batik painting on cloth

    Image 2

    Photo Gallery: Holistic Empowerment of Tribal Women through Group Development Initiatives, West Bengal

    Women doing tie dye/batik painting on cloth

    Image 2

    Photo Gallery: Holistic Empowerment of Tribal Women through Group Development Initiatives, West Bengal

    Women undergoing vocational training (eg. cloth tailoring)

    Image 2

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