In India, religious norms and values play a significant role in regulating the lives of women and girls in many communities. This article looks at how the lives of women and girl beedi (hand rolled cigarette) rollers in a Muslim community in West Bengal are influenced by their religious background, highlighting the complex relationship between gender, faith, and work. Secondly, the article discusses how secular NGOs – which in India are often seen to be hesitant in addressing questions of religious faith and practice – can engage in development work with women and girls in faith-based communities. The article focuses on the experiences of two secular NGOs working with women beedi workers in villages in Murshidabad, as they come to understand that to bring about significant changes in women’s lives they must open up discussions around sensitive religious belief, within the community and their own organisations.
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