Phulme Majhi - Building a collective strength towards equality

Phulme Majhi - Building a collective strength towards equality

Bandpari, home to Phulme is a small hamlet in the Lanjigarh block of Kalahandi district of Odisha. This region is home to the Dongria and the Kutia Kondh tribes who are known for their protest against the Bauxite miners in the Niyamgiri Hills.

Unnayan, led by Phulme is a local tribal organisation, which has been working tirelessly to protect and promote the rights of the marginalised in Kalahandi. Phulme has been an activist and a social worker for over two decades.

Phulme herself is an inspiration, who is extremely clear about her reasons for fighting for the rights of the marginalised.



“I have grown up seeing people without access to basic rights and it is this that motivated me to work for the people. Some people had rights and some people didn’t, and this was something I had experienced very closely. When I worked in road construction it became quite apparent, boys were paid Rs. 50 a day and women, only Rs. 25. I fought for fair and equal wages then, under constant threats from the contractor. I mobilized 50-60 women at the work site and went on strike till the contractor conceded to our demands. Activism not only brings me peace of mind, but also ensures equality for all”, says Phulme.

In the list of Sustainable Development Goals, perhaps the least contentious goal (and one that even our most notorious patriarchs can get behind) is that of eradicating poverty; a reality that has clung tightly to India alongside its glaring income and wealth inequalities. While being the least contentious however, this goal is also one of the most difficult to achieve without the active participation of women in all sectors of the Indian economy.

Social stigma and unfounded biases about women have prevented women’s participation in the workforce, leading to a collapse in their share as a total India’s workforce. From 35% in 2004 to just 25% now, women’s share of total workforce participation has taken a severe hit with their being a glaring mismatch in the total population composition and share in workforce participation.

Phulme’s fight for justice looks to combat this menace and has grown from strength to strength along with her own stature in the community. From being the elected head of her village, to becoming a household name in Bondpuri; from being an activist to becoming a community leader in the region, Phulme has been constantly building on the collective strength for equality. Unnayan is Phulme’s effort to create a community voice against discrimination.

We stand in solidarity with Phulme’s efforts to make an impact. Unnayan is among the 55 community organisations being supported under the “By the people” initiative.

Oxfam India’s project for empowering Dalits, Tribal and Muslims 

The social inclusion project ‘By the People’ supported by the European Union seeks to advocate for an inclusive and equitable society through enhancement of leadership capacity of civil society organizations led by motivated members from three marginalized communities—Dalits, Tribal and Muslims. The target organisations have been challenging a long history of oppression on the lines of caste, ethnicity and religion. However, lack of an adequate support system has restricted their reach and impact. 

Oxfam India in partnership with Centre for Social Equity and Inclusion and Praxis Institute for Participatory Practices supports 55 Community Led Organisations (CLOs) across six states of India (Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Jharkhand, Odisha and Uttar Pradesh). They are being supported to play a more influential role in development and governance processes within a regular capacity building framework.

Read Jalaun's Manual Scavengers- Fighting for Right to Life with Dignity

Text By - Tias Dutta, Communication and Documentation Officer, New Delhi

Social Inclusion

Our work enables marginalised communities, such as Dalits, tribals and Muslims to live a life free from discrimination

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