Providing a safe space in the SHGs and VOs for women to share and discuss not only issues related to livelihoods, savings and credit…although these are important…but also themselves, their lives, their health, their choices or the lack of it, their decision-making abilities, and their self-image, the PRADAN team in Araria is working with women and teenage girls to bring about fundamental changes in mindsets by challenging age-old beliefs and traditions
‘As-Salaam Alaikum’ is a greeting one hears as one enters any of the villages in Araria district. The greeting, meaning ‘Peace be upon you’, is sometimes replaced by ‘Aadab’, another Muslim greeting.
A raria district, in northeastern Bihar, occupies an area of 2,830 sq km and is situated in the northern part of Purnia and Madhepura in Bihar. Araria is surrounded by Nepal on the northern side, Kishanganj in the east and Supaul in the west. From the point of view of security, the district is important because of its border with Nepal. Jogbani is the last point of Araria, after which the Virat Nagar district of Nepal begins. The major rivers of this district are Kosi, Suwara, Kali and Koli.
Araria is one of the 90 minority concentration districts, comprising 70 per cent Muslim population, mainly Kulahaiya Muslims. The community speaks a special dialect, also called Kulahaiya. The women are more comfortable speaking the dialect and can also speak Hindi. The district is traditional, with high value placed on joint family kinship, religion, caste and community. The villages of Araria have old social hierarchies, and caste equations still shape local development. The society is feudal and caste-ridden. Nearly 13.7 per cent of the population is Scheduled Castes (SC) and 1.3 per cent Scheduled Tribes (ST). In at least 13 per cent of the villages, the SC population is more than 40 per cent. Some of the most backward communities are mushahars, turhas, mallahs and doms.
The Maulvi sahab and the Hazi listened to us, understood our objective and promised to help us to move ahead. Our continuous engagement with these two men helped in building rapport with the villagers