Mina Das

Ashoka Fellow
Fellow Since 1996


This profile was prepared when Mina Das was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1996.
The New Idea
Capitalizing on the tight bonds among women in traditional Indian villages, Mina Das has developed an organization that empowers women and girls to learn about and stand up for their rights. She circumvents the shortcomings of both the formal education system and standard rural development programs by creating a holistic educational alternative, grounded more in action than theory, that hammers home lessons at multiple levels for multiple audiences.Projects that Mina has begun appeal to married women, teenage girls, and young children. In the process, they and their fathers, husbands, and sons come to understand the importance of women's empowerment and education. As the women and girls take charge of road conditions, water management, health problems, land inequities and other needs neglected by the government, entire communities benefit, thereby creating a radically new attitude towards women's rights in West Bengal's traditional villages. This attitudinal shift is what Mina believes will sustain the changes in women's participation in village life and in traditional male/female relationships. In Mina's words, "I committed myself to creating a comprehensive leadership program for young boys and girls of our village, where they could relate to each other as peers. I wanted to break the dominant/subordinate role divisions that boys and girls grow up with_ I wanted them to be equal partners who would question attitudes, argue and fight with each other and criticize each other."
With girls and women leading the way, over 60 villages are undergoing massive change. Never before has such a ground swell of leadership come from the youngest members of poor and disenfranchised families. And never before has there been a system in place that allows younger and older women alike to reinforce each other's efforts to achieve basic human rights and equality.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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