Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Hirbaiben began motivating women

Hirbaiben began motivating women

Hirbaiben Lobi (age 55)

Hirbaiben Lobi Ibrahimbhai was born in the village of Jambur (Talala Taluka, Junagadh District, Gujarat state), a Siddi community of tribal people mainly descendants of slaves brought centuries ago from Africa. Orphaned as a child, she was raised by her grandmother. Although inheriting a large debt, she refused to sell her tiny piece of land. Rather, she encouraged her husband to work harder, and with help from listening to radio programs on agricultural development, eventually succeeded in freeing the land from creditors. In 1992, Hirbaiben began motivating women to form women's development groups creating three groups that deal with issues of health, hygiene, savings and credit, and agricultural improvement. Realising the importance of education. Hirbaiben set out to find funds for a day care center and primary school, and convinced the village to assign land that had been allotted to private housing, to be used for a school so village children could study past the primary level. Together with other Siddi women she manufactures and sells organic compost proving that women can prepare a high quality product that can compete on the market. She also had the courage to contest the position of Sarpanch (head of the village government) and, although she lost, she is called the "Sarpanch" of the village and even senior government officials listen to her.

The Siddis, one of Gujarat's most backward communities, have for centuries led life in the shadows, marginalised and illiterate. Now, the future seems brighter for this tribe, thanks to Lobi. Illiterate herself, she is leading a quiet revolution across 18 villages in Saurashtra. Her initiatives include a cooperative movement, family planning, and small savings group. Competing successfully against established brands, her vermicompost manufacturing group sold compost worth Rs 700,000 last year. Helping to build a community school for the Siddis, she's now planning a college. Lobi has won the Women's World Summit Foundation Prize (2002) and the Jankidevi Bajaj Award (2006) for Rural Entrepreneurship.

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