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UN beckons anti-booze crusader

From serving among Musaharas in a non-descript village of Champaran to addressing a convention under the United Nations umbrella, Girja Devi, 59, is all set to add a new chapter to her chequered yet enviable career.

india Updated: Feb 11, 2006 03:48 IST
R.N. Sinha

From serving among Musaharas in a non-descript village of Champaran to addressing a convention under the United Nations umbrella, Girja Devi, 59, is all set to add a new chapter to her chequered yet enviable career.

Girja, who espouses the cause of women in Bhirkhia Tola in Chakia block of Champaran district, is a crusader against alcoholism. She has just got a call to address the 50th convention of the Women Empowerment & Development Organisation (WEDO), to be held in New York between February 27 and March 10.

Girja, who can barely sign, was informed about the invitation from the UN body by Action Aid, an NGO, on January 30. The Samajik Shodh Evam Vikas Kendra that she is associated with and the Action Aid work in tandem for the uplift of the Musahars in the region.

Born at Sakri Musahar Tola of Muzaffarpur in 1946, Girja got married in the 1960s to Singheshwar Manjhi of Bhirkhia Tola. After suffering because of liquor abuse in the family, she raised the banner of revolt against men who treat their wives inhumanly after getting drunk. She organised many women, initially in her own locality and then all over Musahar Tola.

Gradually, Girja began to get involved in issues concerning women and even succeeded in securing minimum wages for woman labourers, as prescribed by the government. Six years ago, she formed the Musahar Vikas Manch to pressure the district administration into supplying medicines when kala azar gripped the district.

The women of the region now see her as a messiah. “Our husbands now behave like husbands and treat us with respect,” said a member of the ‘Girja fan club’.

Girja is a ward member of Bhirkhia Tola now and addresses women in their dialect (Bhojpuri). The Hindi she speaks is an apology of the language. Yet, she is unperturbed that she is going to New York. “They have called me to address their session. It's their problem how to understand what I say,” she said.

First Published: Feb 11, 2006 03:48 IST