LWF Program Supports Women’s Leadership Efforts
DINAJPUR, Bangladesh/GENEVA, 8 March 2012 (LWI) –They call her the “shining star” in the village.
Sisilia Murmu is a talented young girl who had always dreamed of gaining an education and financial independence, but her family’s poverty kept her from attending high school in Dhanjoypur village, located in the Dinajpur district of northern Bangladesh.
Her parents are farmers, scratching out a living as daily laborers. Life is difficult for the indigenous Adibasi family that includes three other daughters and two sons.
However, thanks to Rangpur Dinajpur Rural Service (RDRS), Murmu’s dream has come true. An associate program of The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) Department for World Service (DWS), RDRS opened training centers named Shonglap (dialogue) for indigenous adolescent girls.
In the centers the girls are taught life skills and made aware of social issues. Murmu joined her local center and has attended regularly, performing well in different sessions. Seeing her development and interest, RDRS helped get her readmitted to school and provided financial support.
Happy to get a chance to go to school again, Murmu started studying attentively. In 2010 she obtained her secondary school certificate. “I am very much happy about my Secondary School Certificate results,” she said recently. “I would like to thank RDRS for providing support to continue my study.”
Murmu’s story embodies the theme for International Women’s Day 2012, “Empower Rural Women – End Poverty and Hunger.” Her education continues, and she hopes to train as a doctor.
In addition to her academic studies, Murmu has received training on cow and goat rearing, a skill which she has turned into an income-generating activity. After nine months of rearing goats, she could give financial support to her parents.
Thanks to her training at the Shonglap center, Murmu also teaches her community about issues that have an impact on their daily lives, such as cleanliness, schooling, children’s immunization and safe motherhood.
The center has brought new hope for the Murmu family and for the whole village—they are much more aware of sanitation and other preventative health measures. And it has given Sisilia Murmu a new name in the village—“shining star.”
Long Association with the LWF
One of Bangladesh’s longest serving and largest non-governmental organizations, RDRS began as an LWF program in 1972 following Bangladesh’s war of independence. It has been a DWS associate program since 1997.
RDRS challenges the causes and effects of poverty, ignorance and powerlessness, working to enable the rural poor, including their institutions, to achieve meaningful political, social and economic empowerment; democracy and gender equality; and a sustainable environment through individual and collective efforts.
RDRS development programs benefit more than 1.5 million of the poorest people in almost 17,000 groups and 262 federations in the northwest regions of Bangladesh, including Rangpur and Dinajpur districts.
While Anna Rani’s association with RDRS has not given her a new name like Sisilia Murmu, it has helped give her a new identity.
The 45-year-old mother of four children lives a life of hardship in Balakondi village in Umormajid Union of Kurigram district. Her husband Feloram Das is a fisherman but they have few assets–a tiny patch of land, a small house, one sheep, six ducks and two hens.
But since she joined the RDRS group and became an active member of the Umormojid Union Federation, she plays an important role in the community.
Her popularity was proven in 2011, when she was elected to the Union Parishad (UP), the lowest tier of government, defeating her nearest rival by 1,721 votes.
“When it was first proposed [to] contest the UP polls, I was not courageous enough. But later the Federation encouraged me and gave me support,” Rani said. “I felt that I might be a winner. I started campaigning for votes.
“Federation members and their families, vulnerable groups, community people gave enormous support to me and I won the election,” she added.
Now she wants to keep the public trust she has gained by playing an uncompromising role in support of the rights of the poor. (685 words)
Feature in observation of International Women’s Day (8 March).
Read more about women and the LWF at: http://www.lutheranworld.org/lwf/index.php/tag/women