Indien: Meghiben Samariya

Meghiben has inspired some 2500 women in the entire Pachcham area to take up the cause of human rights, empowerment, and justice for women.

— Meghiben Samariya

Meghiben Samariya (born 1966) has successfully combated the stigma associated with her status as a divorcee. For the past ten years, she has been working to strengthen women's grassroots collectives and women's involvement in the socioeconomic arena in her village and district. Her work with legal aid has been crucial to women's lives in the area. Most innovative of all her efforts, though, is the printing of a newsletter for neoliterates, encouraging them to express themselves in print and thus making a public space available to women.

Meghiben Samariya is divorced and lives with her parents in the conservative Bhuj district of Gujarat, where her marital status could have been the source of considerable social stigma. However, with her keen mind and instinctive grasp of situations, she has built herself into a force to reckon with. Meghiben has been associated with the women's collective Kutch Mahila Vikas Sangathan (KMVS) for the past ten years, working to build the capacities of grassroots women's collectives. Initially, the KMVS helped the team form the collectives, but the collective in Meghiben's Mundra taluka has become a registered community-based organization, the Ujjas Mahila Sangathan (UMS). As a senior member of the UMS, Meghiben guides the organization in further developing its collective potency. It works to eliminate domestic violence by creating a social movement of men and women, and by developing multiple mechanisms for community and sociolegal redress. Meghiben lays stress on the commitment of the UMS to focus on and develop the economic security of women and the community at large by promoting female self-enterprise. Meghiben has also learnt screen printing from the core members of the KMVS team, and is now printing a newsletter for neoliterates, encouraging them to express themselves in print, thus making a public space available to women. She also helped to develop the legal aid clinic in her area, and now focuses on issues of social justice and human rights. Dealing mostly with domestic violence, divorce, and sexual violence cases, she is now part of the team working on problems that may arise due to the industrialization of the coastal area of Mundra. Looking to the future, Meghiben says, "I would also like to see women control the resources they generate, resulting in the complete socioeconomic empowerment of rural women."

Ujjas Mahila Sangathan (UMS)