Indien: Alkaben Jani

The human sea is full of pearls that need to be identified and polished so as to give them the shine. I was identified and groomed and now I feel it is my moral responsibility to groom the rest.

— Alkaben Jani

Alkaben Jani's work in the Kutch area of Gujarat is informed by her intimate knowledge of the oppressive social fabric of the region. For the past 15 years, she has been extensively organizing, mobilizing, and training rural women, focusing on capacity-building and leadership training. The result of these efforts is the emergence of a strong and motivated team of 12,712 leaders at the community level, who are leading other women in the area to surface and take the reins both in their homes and outside.

Alkaben Jani (born 1964) is a single woman who has had to struggle against family expectations and pressures to pursue her convictions and work with women less privileged than herself. Alkaben's work in the Kutch district of Gujarat, where she has lived since birth, is informed by her intimate knowledge of the area. She works in a region that has one of the highest rates of women driven to suicide by oppressive patriarchal practices, where one in 20 women faces severely debilitating conditions such as a prolapsed uterus, and where women face the major brunt of the near-perennial drought conditions and scarce water resources. For the past 15 years, Alkaben has contributed extensively to organizing, mobilizing, and training rural women in poverty alleviation. She has inspired them to transcend social pressures and move toward transforming themselves and their environment. Today, the Kutch Mahila Vikas Sangathan (KMVS)–one of the first grassroots rural women's collectives in India–comprises 12,000 women, and much of the credit goes to Alkaben's sustaining leadership and commitment. Alkaben's focus is on the capacity-building of rural women through training, and the identification of women who can lead and manage the community. She creates spaces for women to express themselves, and encourages a process of self-reflection, so that they analyze their situation in a larger political and socioeconomic context. When she looks back, Alkaben has no regrets that she stood up to her family and society, and lived by her commitment to work with the poor.

Kutch Mahila Vikas Sangathan (KMVS)