The Force is Within Her : Grassroots Church Women Leaders Transforming Communities and Lives

Grassroots Women Leaders  engaged in Group Discussions during  Convention Organized by  Durgapur Diocese, Church of North India

The Women’s Convention   of Diocesan Women’s Fellowship for Christian Service (DWFCS)  of Durgapur  Diocese met on 10th – 14th October 2017 in St Michael All Angels Cathedral . 125 grassroots Church Women Leaders from Bankura, Purulia, Asansol, West Dinajpur, Malda , Durgapur etc attended this convention . Most of the women leaders are from indigenous or Dalit background. The theme of the Convention was “THE FORCE IS WITHIN HER” ( God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day. (PSALMS 46:5)

 Mrs Rita Dutta President of Women’s Fellowship of Durgapur Diocese ( DWFCS) shared ” We organize Women’s Convention annually. Grassroots women church leaders during this Convention share about  their experiences of weaving justice and peace in their communities, their hopes and challenges and strategizes to transform communities . Revd Papia Priscilla Duriaraj facilitated the delegates  to re-read the Bible from Gender Justice perspective. Ms Moumita Biswas – Executive Secretary of Women’s Concern Ministry of National Council of Churches in India facilitated a diaogical  session on Role of Christian Women in Society.

During the Convention women praised and worshiped through the rhythms of  their bodies  folk dances and  songs in St Michael All Angels Cathedral in Durgapur. According to Mrs Archana. A. Dey Secretary of DWFCS “ Dance is therapeutic it helps women to heal within, break the culture of silence on violence on women and build bonds of love and fellowship in communities. We promote indigenous expressions of worship and spiritualities  to discover Asian Christ .”

Mrs Rita Dutta – President of Women’s Fellowship of Durgapur Diocese shared that  “Women leaders are the backbone of Durgapur Diocese and we are committed towards women and children’s ministry.” Since 2014 Women’s Fellowship of Durgapur Diocese supports and runs a Safe Home for Women and Girls at Risk and survivors of violence. According to Mrs Dutta this Safe Home is  Baldahura area   near the Bangladesh border and human trafficking is  rampant and common phenomenon here. At present there are 20 girls and women  in the Safe Home.”

 Women fellowship of Durgapur Diocese also engages in Child wholistic Development Projects which comprises of Child Development and Study Centers in different villages and districts .Mrs Dutta further states  that “ Along with formal education we also  train  children in other aspects of life such as music, dance, singing, arts & crafts, martial arts, horticulture, animal husbandry etc.”

Girls from Adolescent Girls Hostel with Mrs Rita Dutta – President of Women’s Fellowship of Durgapur Diocese – CNI and other women leaders

Women’s Fellowship also runs Adolescent Girls Hostel and most of the girls are from vulnerable background and communities in the periphery ( slums) . According to Rt  by Rt Rev Probal Kanto Dutta , Bishop of  Durgapur Diocese and Deputy Moderator of Church of North  India “Nurturing vulnerable children, girls through education has transformed lives. We are now yielding the reaps of our commitment and ministerial harvest. Many of the girls from the adolescent Center and Study Centers  have successfully passed board exams some of them have joined nursing training, college and teachers training.

Chandni Das, Sushmita Bakshi and Manju Tudu shared their stories during the Convention. Nurtured by Women’s fellowship in Adolescent Girls  hostel they have graduated  and are now appointed assistant teachers in St Peter’s School. Women’s Fellowship will also support the marriage expenses of Manju Tudu who is getting married in December 2017.

 Anima Hansda an indigenous Santali woman from  from Barikul village shared that “ Women’s Fellowship and Church have played a crucial role in my life in empowering me to realize the force is within me to bring about transformation .When I got involved in Community Development Project of Durgapur Diocese  I understood the importance of women’s involvement in decision making process and also local governance of our country . I am today actively involved in Gram Panchayat (Village Local Governance System) as Upa Pradhan or Vice Chairperson of Gram Panchayat.

Anima Hansda further states  that “As soon as I got elected I made efforts to support widows in our village and facilitated 6 widows to receive aid and support from the Government. I also made efforts to support the blind and disabled people in our village through government aid.”  She emphasized that that it is the duty of Gram Panchayat to  promote child health issues and  reproductive, maternal health of women and girls .

Hansda emphasized that “Empowering women about their human rights is very important.  Various Human Right Empowerment Programs of Durgapur Diocese had helped  me to understand Women’s Rights are Human Rights .My aim now is through Gram Panchayat to create  such awareness in our villages.”

National Council of Churches congratulates Rt Rev Probal Kanto Dutta , for his prophetic endeavors  and ministry . NCCI also congratulates Mrs Dutta –President of DWFCS and all members of women’s fellowship  for all their of  transforming communities and changing lives .

 Reported by Moumita Biswas – Executive Secretary – Women’s Concerns Ministry National Council of Churches in India

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