Begun in 1998 the focus was on empowerment of women and education of children of the dalit community with special emphasis on the Majhis (Musahar community). Empowerment is done through Self Help Groups (SHGs). In addition they are exposed to networking and leadership meetings organized by other women groups like ‘Mahila Chetna Kendra’ and ‘Sewa Kendra’. This with their participation in the Indian Social Forum in Delhi has broadened their knowledge and understanding, given them the courage to shed some of their shackles of mute submission and dependence. Some of them perform in plays and give speeches at public gatherings, and many participated in campaigning for a particular candidate in the Panchayat (village self rule) elections. They also raise their voices and take their problems to the Janta Darbar (the peoples’ forum of the Chief Minister). One of the first achievements was pressurizing the State Government to withdraw the red card (ration card for the poor) because of the corruption and irregularity in allotment. Also historic was a dalit woman ‘mukhia’(head of the area) hoisting the flag on Independence day.
Children are an important part of the MMS involvement. We have been involved in getting dalit, including majhi, children into schools and hostels and parents are now taking an active interest in getting their daughters admitted. Children have their own ‘saving bank’ and have to-date collected a substantial sum of money. Children come together from different panchayats and municipal (city administrative units) areas to put up colourful cultural programs on Children’s day and are encouraged for their talents and creativity with prizes and certificates.
Collaboration began with Yuva Bharat, an activist group with the ideology of Jayprakash Narayan. We are also collaborating with Pratham Shiksha Pahal, a group that takes up the concerns of dalit women, The National Women’s Organization, National Campaign for Dalit Human Rights, Mahila Chetna Kendra and others.
New initiatives have been: skill training for BPL (Below the Poverty Line) youth and building of toilets for BPL families.