The Nirbhoy Gram is a first of its kind of a flagship philanthropic initiative in Malda district of West Bengal in eastern part of India with an aim to empower 3000 villages and 5 million people. The initiative spreads ideals of peace, non-violence and fearless existence. It upholds principles of Gram Swaraj (Realisation of true Independence of villages).
Malda has been declared one among 272 most backward districts by the Planning Commission of India. Nestled in the border of Bangladesh, the district has reported high levels of poverty, illiteracy, crime and communal violence. A large number of youth is affected by drug addiction. Millions of girls are married off prematurely before they attain the age of a major. The sex ratio is skewed, with high levels of violence against girl child. The district is a popular source of child labour and migrant unskilled labour. There is lack of employment opportunities and capacity to combat poverty. There is continuous river erosion and loss of livelihood due to violence and natural calamities. The drinking water is contaminated, with high levels of arsenic poisoning. The newspaper readership is very low. Community radio is yet to reach these villages. The television has covered only one fourth of its population.
Nirbhoy Gram means a fearless village. It primarily focuses on safety and security of women and children. The initiative has been envisioned by India’s leading women’s rights activist, Sreerupa Mitra Chaudhury (An iconic figure in Malda district fondly addressed by villagers as Nirbhoy Didi, meaning fearless sister) as a people’s movement for safety, security and justice at the grass-root.
The campaign aims to remove fear from the minds of villagers, teach villagers to stand against crime and corruption, educate them to fight economic insolvency, motivate them to voice out their demands for social justice, safety and security and elect fearless and truthful leaders as their representatives for social, economic and infrastructural transformation of the villages.
The initiative helps people build safe homes, toilets, roads and reliable sources of power and drinking water. The campaign has raised a phenomenal number of Nirbhoy (Fearless) volunteers as messengers of peace and agents of social change. The initiative has focused on villages as nerve centres of growth and economic development. It motivates villagers to reap the benefits of naturopathy and indigenous handicrafts produced by rural community artists and charkha based textiles. The campaign empowers people to rely on natural resources available in the surroundings and build social skills to combat poverty and economic subjugation.
At present, Nirbhoy Didi is campaigning for smart villages, safe homes, sustainable toilets and sanitary napkins for women and young girls.