Indien: Roshanben M Shaikh

Friction was inevitable, and Roshanben was often at the center of it all, trying her best to maintain peace and rallying people around to the common cause of survival.

— Roshanben M Shaikh

Roshanben M Shaikh (born 1950) showed rare courage by marrying again after her husband died, leaving her with two little daughters-and then walking out of the unhappy second marriage. When the Sabarmati river floods washed away her hut-along with those of hundreds of others-Roshanben was at the forefront of the rehabilitation work, brokering peace between communities, and working toward the economic independence of women, which she continues to do to this day.

In 1973, the Sabarmati floods destroyed the houses of over 3000 families-including Roshanben's little hut. People were out on the streets with whatever little they could save. A number of nongovernmental agencies came out to set up relief and rehabilitation camps for the flood affected, and an NGO introduced Roshanben to the National Institute of Design (NID). The NID was looking for hands to train in patchwork design, and the NGO was in charge of the project planning and implementation. Roshanben fit in immediately, learning faster than most others. Not just that, she soon became a trainer for more women. She eventually trained over 100 women, and was part of a group of about 100 women who formed a cooperative called the Mahila Patchwork Cooperative Society (MPCS) in 1978. The government was simultaneously carrying out resettlement work, and Roshanben played a big role in mobilizing the whole community, as well as in brokering peace between communities when the government handed out alternate sites for resettlement and friction threatened the calm. For the past 28 years, Roshanben has been striving in the area of economic independence for women. Her place of work has been Juhapura, and it has even seen her being elected to the Makarba Village Panchayat (village council). The MPCS remains solidly with her, and her inherent leadership ability has helped her mobilize massive numbers into following her train.

Mahila Patchwork Cooperative Society (MPCS)