Sikha Roy is mobilizing women who are either “daily-wage earners”or landless labourers to exercise their legal rights and gain access to unused land to improve their socio economic conditions.
Sikha has been defining and establishing land and property rights for women in the state of West Bengal by facilitating the provision of titles to groups and individuals. She helps women pool together their small, individual land holdings for collective commercial and personal farming purposes. In parallel, she operates income generation programs that teach multi-crop farming and the production of neem oil, equipping the women with skills to help them earn throughout the year. These programs also include the development of leadership skills, especially for those women who are part of the panchayat. Currently, Sikha’s work impacts 5000 women and 300 groups in the Bankhura district. In addition, Sikha has been working on land ownership rights of tribal communities in the Bankura district who have been living in the forests for more than 70 years. Through campaigns and activism she is helping them gain legal titles over their lands.
To create a supportive environment for these poor women and increase economic opportunities for them, Sikha is using government schemes, participatory research and capacity building activities to build awareness in village communities. Sikha’s organisation SRREOSHI (Society for Research and Rudimentary Education on Social and Health Issues), is building the capacity of villagers, local governments, and institutions such as the Land Department. Her work involves the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGA), and the “My Home, My Land” scheme of West Bengal. The organization trains volunteers from various villages to develop leaders for their initiatives. These leaders take on the responsibility of operating a variety of programs including implementing MGNREGA, planning and delivering SRREOSHU programs, and participatory planning in the panchayat.
Sikha is currently working in partnership with local Civil Society Organizations, sharing and scaling her model to expand to other districts in West Bengal. Over 25000 people are served by SRREOSHI programs. The quality of life for rural women has drastically improved as a result of Sikha’s work.In the future, she plans to take her work across West Bengal, Jharkhand and Orissa and spearhead the practice of women’s collective farming in the state of West Bengal.
Note: This was updated in December, 2013. Read on for the ELECTION profile