In Bihar State less than a fourth of the women can read and write their names; women of low caste, tribal women and farm labourers are victims of a centuries-old system of discrimination. Hopes for a more harmonious society need a commitment to women’s dignity.
In Bihar a Jesuit centre wins praise from officials and social workers for the marvellous boost it has given dalit (untouchable) women. “Now I am the lioness of my village,” declares a committee member who escaped rape thanks to the intervention of READ volunteers. “No landlord will dare to cast his lustful eyes on us.” Rural Education And Development was set up by the Patna Province and has helped more than 25,000 dalit and tribal women learn about their rights and become economically more independent. In the north-western State of Punjab, where the Sikh religion is rooted, the Good Shepherd Centre arranges discussion groups which allow women to break out of the restricted circle of their relatives and explore issues of work, family and relationships.
The Centre also denounces crimes of exploitation and violence against women. Building on this example, the Sikh religious leadership has begun a campaign to overcome all form of discrimination based on sexual prejudice.