1990: Jaba Battacharjee and her few friends with vivacity and social concerns was confronted with the social reality of suppression, marginalization and pathos of rural gentry. These budding women and few more, from various parts of Uttar Dinajpur came together and formed the organization Shripur Mahila – O – Khadi Unnayan Samity (SMOKUS). It started to provide various services related to the protection of women health and mother-child health care in the Raiganj and Itahar Block. The effort continued for more than 3 years.
1993: A Child Labor School at Itahar Block was established. Further, the organization started constant campaign against dowry and female feticide, domestic violence and started various vocational training programs in many villages for self sustenance.
1994: SMOKUS got registered under the ‘West Bengal Societies Registration Act’. A committee was formed involving 9 women from villages and town. A central office was formed in Raiganj and another village office at Itahar. A school for underprivileged rural children was established. It had also started an adult education center.
1995: SMOKUS started vigorous campaign and sensitization drives on the rights of the workers to get minimum wages according to ‘Minimum Wages Act 1948’.
1996-1998: SMOKUS started working on ‘ensuring participation of women in the village development programme’ and established ‘Mahila Mondal’ (Women Committee) in various villages and ‘Pulse Polio Programme’ jointly with various Panchayats.
1998-2001: SMOKUS started a crèche for the children of rural agrarian laborers with assistance from the Central Social Development Department. SMOKUS imparted special training on leadership development to the youth, which was assisted by the Human Resource Development Ministry, GOI. From 2001, SMOKUS started pre- primary schools in many villages.
2002: Through the women’s groups formed by the organization, 320 families of villages got training on cash crop production and seed preservation. A clinic started in Itahar to inform the pregnant and lactating mothers about pre and post pregnancy health practices. Groups of adolescent girls and boys were formed in several villages of Raiganj block and organized sensitization camps on their physical and psychological problems and its remedies.
2003: SMOKUS initiated a Campaign against Child Labor by holding sensitization camps in several villages with the slogan ‘STOP CHILD LABOUR’ and workshops and interactive sessions on different rights of the people and legal aid.
2004-2005: SMOKUS started working on cross border and internal trafficking of women in the few blocks of Uttar Dinajpur. It was supported by Action Aid International. SMOKUS conducted fortnightly campaign on violence against women, especially upon adolescents and girl child. During these fortnights, various opinion building and massive sensitization drives were taken up.
2006-2010: SMOKUS took actions against trafficking of women and girls and early marriages and took active part in ‘Go to School’ initiative. Anti-trafficking committees were formed in villages, blocks and the district. It collected all the facts and figures on the issue and made a complaint before the West Bengal Human Rights Commission and on the other hand made several protests before the administration.
SMOKUS formed 8 ‘reflect circle’ in the Panchayats of different blocks with marginalized women. It was assisted by Action Aid International. Women’s groups made advocacies before the Panchayats to get adequate jobs for women, under 100 days job scheme (NREGA). In that period, the SHG members had empowered by SMOKUS on village development planning by organizing ‘Gram Sansad Sava’ by active participation of community people. This initiative was supported by ‘Participatory Research in Asia’ & DFID. Women groups of Itahar and Raiganj Block succeeded in their struggle of achieving the justified rights.
2011- Till 2015: Presently, the SHGs are able to improve their financial condition by adopting the income generation plan with the support of SMOKUS. They are aware of the five institutions of Panchayati Raj, Child Rights, Woman Rights and relevant social issues. They participate in different awareness campaign and meetings in Livelihood Program (MGNREGA, a government Scheme) and Basic Services (Health and Nutrition) for the women in 100 villages of the three Blocks Raiganj, Itahar and Kaliyaganj, in order to increase the opportunity to avail sustainable and different types of employment options and to avail the services (JSY, RSBY) to the deprived women. SHGs has been connected with the district level federation of SHGs, i.e. PRATYA, for strengthening the advocacy effort of the SHGs to ensure the rights of children and women of this area. They have succeeded to aware the socially excluded people about their rights and to get the MGNREGA 100 day’s job scheme and Basic services to the women through their intense work.
The organization will continue to provide the loan to the selective SHGs under the income generation plan. An effort will be made to benefit more SHGs under the IGP scheme. Thus, by taking such measures, different types of sustainable livelihood options in an adequate number would be available for the families, which may improve their financial condition to further reduce the incidence of unsafe migration and child migration in the area.
A safety network system against unsafe migration is functioning in villages under Bindole & Rampur Gram Panchayat of Uttar Dinajpur district through monitoring and keeping records of the labor migration, especially the child migration. It recommended the migrant laborers from the respective villages to avail the Safe Migration Help Card from the Village Information & the Resource Center at Bindole & Rampur. Thus, the incidence of unsafe migration and child trafficking has been reduced through this intervention and due to the increase of awareness level of the villagers.
Through participation process, the children have availed decision making opportunity in the entire Gram Panchayat, where they have identified and developed plans for implementing various issue-based tasks for community development. The inclusion of children under the Village Vigilance Committees will provide a major opportunity for them to enjoy their Rights to Participation. Thus, children’s participation and its acceptance in the community level will be increased in various ways. The children will be able to improve their conceptual understanding about child rights, child labor, including environment by getting lessons on the same at Child Resource Centers.
In this way, SMOKUS is making prominent efforts to fulfill its vision and mission.