Ragini Devi, from Balthi Rasoolpur village in Muzaffarpur district, has been chosen as ‘India’s first Asadharan Mahila (unusual woman)’ for her path-breaking move to take up vegetable cultivation and inspire hundreds of women to take it up as a means of livelihood.The 42-year-old Ragini Devi will inaugurate an international woman’s conference along with President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam in New Delhi on Friday. She will light the inaugural lamp along with Kalam and share the dais with the president – a rare chance for a woman from her background – during the two-day conference.She was chosen for the award by New Delhi-based Grassroots magazine. Ashwani Kumar, district convenor of the NGO Sansarg, said Ragini Devi had joined Sansarg five years ago to work in her village for women’s empowerment. ‘She started vegetable cultivation in her village and inspired dozens to earn their livelihood through her initiative,’ Kumar said.
Ragini Devi’s move to take up vegetable cultivation made her a household name in Bochhan block in Muzaffarpur. ‘Thanks to her, vegetables, which were cultivated at a small level a few years ago, are now sent to different places across India and exported too,’ Kumar said.
And Ragini Devi is alone credited for all the success.
Early this year, Girija Devi, a poor and illiterate Dalit woman from Bihar, was selected to represent India at an international UN-sponsored seminar for her work in an anti-liquor drive in rural areas. Girija Devi, in her late 50s and a mother of four, belongs to Chipulia village in east Champaran district.
Last year, two Dalit women from Madhuban district – Tiliya Devi and America Devi – were nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize 2005.
In December 2004, 14-year old Guriya Khatoon, a Muslim girl from a poor Bihar family, was selected by UNICEF to represent India at the release of its report in London. The United Nations Children’s Fund had earlier selected Lalita, a Dalit girl from Bihar’s Mushhar community, to feature on the cover of the State of the World’s Children 2004 report.