Mrs. Sudha Varghese

Founder, Nari Gunjan

Area of Intervention

Working with Musahar Community in Bihar


Mrs. Sudha Varghese founded Nari Gunjan in 1987 to empower rural Dalit and landless agricultural laborer women in India. The organization focuses on raising awareness about women’s rights, combating caste-based violence, advocating for fair wages and land rights, and ensuring access to essential services like the Public Distribution System (PDS) and education for their children. Mrs. Sudha Varghese’s work through Nari Gunjan has been instrumental in improving the lives of marginalized women in rural India.

Regarding her work, numerous rape cases were reported within the Musahar community. The apprehension of the perpetrators in each case was achieved through the resolute protests and advocacy efforts spearheaded by women.

Sudha Varghese, born in Manjoor, Kottayam District, Kerala, in 1950, embarked on her journey of social activism and empowerment. Her early education was completed in Kerala before relocating to Bihar in 1965.

She pursued her education, graduating from Mysore University in 1973 and later completing her law studies in 1989 at Bangalore University. In 1979, she ventured into social work, dedicating herself to uplift marginalized communities in districts like Dhanbad, Bhojpur, and Munger.

In 1986, Sudha Varghese moved to the Patna District, where she commenced her work with the most marginalized Musahar community in the Danapur Block. She engaged children and women in activities that included playing, singing, and gradually introducing them to education and literacy. Her approach to bringing about change in these marginalized Dalit communities always began with education, both non-formal and functional. In addition to her education-focused initiatives, she has also been a leading figure in organizing and advocating for change within these communities, addressing issues such as caste violence, domestic violence, and poverty. Furthermore, Sudha Varghese has led numerous women’s agitations at the district, state, and national levels against various forms of violence and discrimination against women. Additionally, she has been actively involved in global movements, such as the World March of Women against poverty and violence.

Jamsaut Musahar tola served as the foundation for critical social analysis, discussions, planning, and the development of key concepts that laid the groundwork for an organization dedicated to empowering marginalized women. These women, who were poor, illiterate, and living in insecurity in various aspects of their lives, were undeniably determined, fearless, and prepared to take risks and confront challenges. When they united, their collective strength became a formidable force that could not be ignored. This marked the inception of Nari Gunjan.

Currently, Sudha Varghese holds the position of Secretary at Nari Gunjan, overseeing various initiatives:

  • 75 Kishori Kendras: These centers focus on the education and development of Dalit Kishoris (adolescent girls).
  • 40 Anand Shiksha Kendras: Catering to Musahar children in the age group of 4 to 7, these centers provide foundational education.
  • 1000 women’s Self-Help Groups (SHGs): These SHGs are active in Danapur and Phulwarisharif Blocks, promoting economic and social empowerment among women.
  • Regular Campaigns: Nari Gunjan conducts consistent campaigns advocating for primary education and against child marriages in several Blocks, including Danapur, Phulwarishariff, Punpun, Bihta, and Naubatpur.

In addition to these efforts, Nari Gunjan is committed to championing the Right to Education, ensuring that marginalized communities have access to quality education as a fundamental right. This organization, led by Sudha Varghese, is dedicated to bringing positive change and empowerment to the lives of women and children in the region.

Sudha Varghese has been actively engaged in various national and international platforms and received notable recognition for her dedicated work and advocacy:

  • Fifth World Conference of Women in Beijing, 1995: Sudha Varghese attended this influential conference, contributing to global discussions on women’s issues and empowerment.
  • Member of National Alliance of Women: She became a member of this important national organization, demonstrating her commitment to women’s rights and gender equality.
  • World March of Women in New York, 2000: Sudha Varghese participated in the World March of Women in New York, advocating for women’s rights on a global stage.
  • World Social Forums in Bombay, Hyderabad, and Brazil, 2005: She engaged in discussions and activities at these forums, addressing various social and economic issues.
  • Public Hearing on Violence against Dalit Women at The Hague, 2007: Sudha Varghese took part in a significant event highlighting violence against Dalit women at the international level.
  • Attended Commission on Status of Women-UN, 2010: Her attendance at the Commission on the Status of Women, a United Nations body, underlines her commitment to advancing gender equality globally.
  • Received PADMASHREE AWARD, 2006: She was honored with the Padma Shri award by President Abdul Kalam in recognition of her exceptional contributions and achievements.
  • Part of Bihar Women’s Network: Sudha Varghese was involved in the Bihar Women’s Network, working collaboratively for the betterment of women in the state.
  • National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights: She participated in advocacy efforts to advocate Dalits’ rights on a national level.
  • NIRMAL GRAM PANCHAYAT, RAGHURAMPUR: Through Nari Gunjan’s work on sanitation, she contributed to achieving Nirmal Gram Panchayat status in Ragurampur.
  • Convener of Dalit Watch-Bihar: As the convener of this network, she monitored discrimination and exclusion faced by Dalits in disaster situations.

  • State Representative of NCPCR: She served as the state representative for the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), monitoring the well-being and rights of children under 18.

  • Member of Working Group for NRLM: Sudha Varghese was a member of the working group for the National Rural Livelihoods Mission (NRLM) under the Rural Development Ministry during the 12th Five Year Plan.

  • Appointed as Vice-Chairperson of Minority Commission, Government of Bihar, Aug. 2012: In recognition of her dedication and leadership, she was appointed as the Vice-Chairperson of the Minority Commission in Bihar.

  • Participated in Kaun Banega Crorepati in September 2018: Sudha Varghese’s participation in this popular television show likely served to further raise awareness about her work and causes.

Sudha Varghese’s extensive involvement in these diverse roles and organizations reflects her commitment to social justice, women’s empowerment, and the rights of marginalized communities.

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