Vinda Devi, Gurbina Devi and many Musahar women are resolutely fighting the living conditions faced by their marginalised community in the remote village of Gaurishriram, UP, which lacks even basic facilities like housing, water or sanitation. These brave women have come out winners in their struggle against poverty, lack of education and health care, sparking hope among the Musahars of a better future for their children. Rinu, a widow who works as farm labour to feed her three children, is determined to educate them. “No doubt I am struggling for survival today, but I want my children to have a better future.” she says. Dreams are what the iridescent eyes of these Musahar women of Gaurishriram are made of.
Belonging to one of the most marginalised and ostracised communities, the 97 Musahars families of Gaurishriram languish at the very bottom of the society, eking out a living by working as unskilled farm or brick kiln labourers. Lack of facilities for generations have forced them to live in unhygienic conditions with no proper housing, electricity or even water or toilets. For the longest time, the community had been in the dark about the available Government facilities and schemes.
The situation, however, is looking up today in Gaurishriram. The women are in the vanguard of a gradual transformation taking place in this tiny village. Determined to free their families and children from their dismal living conditions, the women of the community came forward as a group in 2016. Vinda, along with 60 women, formed a group with the help of terre des hommes partner SKVS, an organization working in the area. The group met regularly, trying to understand the reasons for their vulnerable conditions and to find a way forward. Regular interaction with the team helped the women garner vital information about the entitlements and benefits offered by several Government schemes aimed at elevating their lives.
In May 2016 the spirited group organized a 10-day MNREGA registration camp in their village with the help of SKVS team, where 150 members received their job cards and 65 families got 14-days of work at the Block Development Office. It was an unforgettable day for the members of the group when they received Rs.2,436 in their accounts for their 14-days of work. Happiness spread across the faces of these soldiers of development as they basked in the knowledge that their children and family members will never go unfed from now on. Gurbina Devi, an active member of the group says, “Development is impossible without information and knowledge. This is our stepping stone to a brighter tomorrow.”
Today, as these feisty women continue their struggle in demanding 200 days of work per year from MNREGA, their sustained effort is reflected in the households of Gaurishriram. A long journey lies ahead of them, but for now, hunger and poverty have been conquered and the women can look forward to educating their children, living in pucca houses, better healthcare facilities and good clothes for their families.