ASIA/INDIA - The voice of a nun has become the collective voice of a whole community of women

Friday, 20 October 2017


Patna (Agenzia Fides) - "Nari Gunjan" or the "Voice of Women" is run by Sr. Sudha Varghese, of the Sisters of Notre Dame in Patna Province. Through her commitment she emancipated an entire community of young girls and women of the Musahar community of Bihar, "addressing the most serious forms of sexual exploitation and harassment", she told Fides.
The Musahar community is among the most oppressed among the oppressed Indian Dalits (untouchables), no Christian presence. And this is how it would have remained if it had not been for the commitment and involvement of this woman who, 20 years ago, made the mission for the Musahar her life. They are landless laborers, never adequately paid for their work. Their main occupations saw them busy in cleaning toilets or in the distilleries of the ruling castes. Their women and children were exploited in the homes of the highest classes and often sexually abused. Schools were never in their reach; those who dared to approach them were sent away and mocked by their fellow students and teachers. In this caste, the marriage between minors was rampant. Girls married at 10 and had 3-4 children under the age of 20 when they were considered sufficiently old enough to deal with a child.
This was the first problem Sister Sudha had to face before starting a school for single mothers. She began with 20 girls, making them study books, but also made them draw, color and sew. After a year and a half, when the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) became aware of her program, it decided to finance Sister Varghese's team in 50 centers.
After the two 'Prerna' female colleges in Danapur and Bodhgaya, the religious initiated Joyful Learning Centers for younger children. The older children received clothes and health care. The nun never stopped, she continued her commitment with the Musahar children. After discovering they were interested in cricket, she gave them all the equipment and with time many started to participate and win tournaments.
Since the Government in Bihar had banished liquor, the Musahar men no longer worked and stayed in their villages. The men who belonged to the upper castes, instead, got drunk and raped women who did not dare rebel until Sister Sudha arrived in 1986, who managed to persuade them to report the abuse to the police and to acknowledge their dignity. In return they offered her food, love and fidelity, she was their 'Cycle Didi' who traveled 50 km a day. She lived among them in a house made of mud until it became too dangerous because of the threats she was receiving.
"I've lived a thousand lives and died a thousand times", she had learned not to be afraid. "If you kill me there will be hundreds of people who will take my place", she said.
As a young girl she had always wanted to dedicate her life at the service of the poor, the most marginalized sectors of India. When she left Kerala, against the will of her family who wanted her to be a teacher in a school run by Catholic nuns in Bihar, Sister Sudha devoted her life to serving the poorest among the poor.
Thanks to the Indian government, the nun manages to have aid from the State and police.
Bihar is one of the poorest Indian states. According to a 2011 census, it has a population of 103,804,837 inhabitants. The literacy rate is 63.82 (54.390.254). Religions present are 82.69% Hindu, 16.87% Muslims, 0.12% Christians, 0.02% Sikhs, 0.02% Buddhists, 0.02% Janis, other confessions 0.01% and no religion declared 0. 20% .
The region has six Catholic dioceses with 200,000 Catholics. Social development, education and the evangelization of the poor and afflicted are among the priorities of the Catholic Church. (SD/AP) (Agenzia Fides, 20/10/2017)