Jaya Devi, also known as the Green Lady of Bihar, grew up witnessing poverty, hunger and brutality towards women and children, thinking her future would be no different. She was forced to discontinue her education while in class IV due to threats from Naxalites, a militant communist group in the region. She married at the young age of 12 and had her first baby at 16. Jaya has bitter sweet memories of growing up and has witnessed firsthand the ongoing struggle of tribal women at the mercy of Naxals and feudal lords. Determined to bring about change in her community, Jaya did just that. Jaya started out setting up self-help groups in the Karaili village to serve the marginalized community, especially women to become financially independent and avoid money lenders. This model has now been active in villages across nine panchayats. Jaya turned to environmental concerns, mobilizing the locals to address issues such as water conservation and tree planting.
Her main focus has been the cause closest to her heart. The protection of her own, the tribal villagers of Munger from ongoing Naxal attacks and oppresion. She has risked her own life in doing so well aware of the fact that every bargain made could be her last! Undaunted, Jaya continues her crusade for change. We salute this brave heart!
The list of her achievements is long: she has taught about 2,000 women to sign, helped people with important documents such as ration cards, voter I-cards and pensions. Drawing strength from her past, Jaya is determined to accelerate the wheels of change. She continues to fight against sexual harassment of tribals, to make her region pollution free zone and to ensure proper infrastructure, education and nutritional facilities for the children in her area.
“What makes me proud to be a woman is that I don’t need a man to take care of me – I am self-reliant and have helped other women achieve the same. Today, every woman should work towards improving her status in the society and for they need to know that by demanding equal status they are just practicing their right.”