Striving to Ensure Social Justice
Integrated Women Empowerment of Balmiki Community
Balmiki community includes sweepers and scavengers among Dalits. Balmikis are at the lowest rung of socio-economic ladder and are considered untouchables, whose mere touch makes one 'impure'. Despite abolition of untouchability by the Constitution of India and several other legal measures, the situation has not changed much. Women among Balmikis are even worse.
The programme covers Balmiki women in 20 villages of Firozabad district. It seeks to empower them through three distinct interventions: livelihood; health, hygiene and nutrition; and socio-psychological.
In livelihood 261 women have been organised into 24 self-help groups have been formed. These groups are functional, holding meetings regularly, indulging in inter-loaning, engaging themselves in income generating activities, etc. The members actively deliberate on social evils prevalent in the community such as domestic violence, addiction to drinking and over expenditure in rituals and marriages. Members are being informed about their eligibility under MNREGS and other government schemes.
As far as health, hygiene and nutrition is concerned, the women have started deriving benefits of Janani Suraksha Yojna and adolescent girls have started taking iron pills. Both women and girls have switched over to using clean sanitary napkins instead of dirty pieces of stray clothes.
Many adolescent girls have started playing the role of catalytic agents by educating their parents, making them literate and what is more important, entreating and persuading their mothers to abandon manual scavenging and their fathers to abstain from drinking so that Balmiki community may be mainstreamed with the society as well as developmental processes.
With our committed engagement with women in a participatory manner they feel empowered enough and are immensely motivated to make the best of the support.