Mohini Giri (born 1938) is a pioneer in empowering the marginalized, especially marginalized women, widows, Dalits, tribals, and the destitute. She began grassroots work when social work, or welfare activity, was considered little more than patronizing charity. The new dimension she gave to social work in India is now recognized as developmental work, where the marginalized are seen as architects of their own destiny, not as beneficiaries of "handouts".
When she was very young, Mohini Giri lived with her mother at the Shivananda Ashram (the divine life society) in Rishikesh. Swami Shivananda, a good surgeon, operated on thousands of patients who flocked to him. Mohini, at only nine years old, was his nurse. It is likely that the first seeds of social work were planted in her mind then. She married into a family of freedom-fighters, who encouraged her, around the time of the subcontinent-defining India-Pakistan war in 1971, to involve herself with social work. Mohini started taking care of wounded soldiers at the military hospitals, an experience that moved her powerfully. "They made me promise that I would take care of the families they left behind," she says. "The War Widows Association was established that year  with those promises ringing in my ears." Mohini also founded the Guild of Service, and runs homes and counseling centers for the rehabilitation and empowerment of destitute women and children at Vrindavan, Godhra, Srinagar, Sawai Madhopur, and Mathura. She has also been very active in the political empowerment of women. The aim of the Rail Chetna Yatra, another creative effort of Mohini's, is to raise public awareness about the demand for a 33 per cent reservation for women in parliament. It was also due to her efforts that the first Mahila Parivarik Lok Adalat (a people's court for women) was organized to enable women in remote areas to access rapid justice. It was Mohini who instigated the empowerment of the marginalized, beginning her grassroots work when social work, or welfare activity, was seen as charity. The dimension she has given to social work in India is now recognized as developmental work, where the marginalized are understood as architects of their own destiny, not as beneficiaries of largesse.
Guild of Service War Widows Association Rail Chetna Yatra