Hirabai Ibrahim Lobi is an Indian social activist who has worked to empower more than 700 women of the Siddi community in Junagadh, Gujarat. She has been awarded Padma Shri in 2023 and several other awards.
Hirabai Ibrahim Lobi aka Hirbaiben Ibrahimbhai Lobi YouTube – Narendra Modi was born in Jambur village in Talala tehsil of Gir Somnath district in Gujarat. She could not go to school or college as she belonged to an impoverished family. She had a strong urge to learn and increase her knowledge as she wanted to move away from their traditional occupation of wood cutting. Her husband believed in women’s equality, and she worked alongside him on their 0.5-hectare land. They had a family debt of Rs1 lakh rupees; however, she refused to sell her land to pay it back and began to find new ideas to pay the debt.
Height (approx.): 5′ 7″
Weight (approx.): 60 kg
Hair Colour: Salt and Pepper
Eye Colour: Black
She belonged to a poor family.
Parents & Siblings
Her parents died when she was 14 years old. She was raised by her grandmother.
Wife & Children
She got married at a young age and has two sons and one daughter.
She follows Islam.
She belongs to the Siddi community of African descent, who were brought here as the slaves of Islamic dynasties since the 7th century and later as British slaves in the 16th century.
Training women to produce organic compost
She heard about organic compost on a radio telecast, which intrigued her, and she started to prepare organic compost in her field. She started to find buyers for her compost and managed to find one buyer. She produced 160 bags in the first year and increased production to 500 bags the following year, by adding nine women to her team. She went on to make 12 groups comprising 95 women, who produce organic compost and sell it. She also helped women to create fruit gardens to grow different fruits. She said in an interview that she would train any women who wanted to improve her living standards and would retain those who study as well.
Initiating Education reforms among Siddis
She came from a family where no woman was literate yet she made it the purpose of her life to make each Siddi woman educated. She focused on improving the education standard of Siddi women by motivating them to go to school and study. A playschool was set up in her village Jambur which was frequently vandalised. The teacher approached her for help, and her intervention resulted in more children attending the school. She went on to set up multiple kindergarten schools in her area.
Promoting financial independence among Siddi women
She has encouraged women in her community to achieve financial freedom by actively helping them to open bank accounts and accompanying them to banks and dealing with the officials. She also promotes the schemes of government in her community for the betterment of women and inspiring them to use such schemes to uplift their living standards. She joined the Aga Khan Foundation and later joined Bharatiya Agro Industries Foundation (BAIF) to know about the activities of these NGOs. In 2004, she established Mahila Vikas Foundation to help her fellow women. In an interview, she said that she has been able to stop women from woodcutting and engage them in different money-making activities. She said,
I have not grown trees in the forest, but I have saved the forest from being cut.”
Fostering Health and Hygiene practices in Siddi women
She spread the practices for improving health and hygiene among the women of the Siddi community. She also promoted birth control as a means to live a better life and to be able to look after their kids more effectively.
Awards, Honours, Achievements
- Received Samman Patra by Gujarat Agriculture University in Junagadh in 2001, 2007, and 2012
- Women’s World Summit Foundation’s Prize for Women’s Creativity in Rural Living in 2002
- Jankidevi Bajaj Puraskar for Outstanding Woman Rural Entrepreneur in 2006
- CNN IBN Real Heroes’ Award Winner 2010
- Padma Shri in 2023
- When she received $ 500 prize money in the Women’s World Summit Foundation’s Prize for Women’s Creativity in Rural Living in 2002, she donated it to her village.
- She became emotional and thanked Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for rewarding her with the Padma Shri in 2023 and said that he has given her the biggest reward as she was quite unknown. She said,
Mere pyaare Narendra Bhai, apne hamari jholi khushiyon se bhar di”
She also added that nobody gave them any recognition and bothered about them until Modi brought them to the forefront. While accepting the award from Indian President Droupadi Murmu, she put her both hands on Murmu’s shoulders to convey blessings to her.
- She said in an interview that she dreamt while growing up that she could not study due to her financial condition; however, she will not allow any girl in her family and community to give up studying due to financial constraints. YouTube- NDTV India She also said in another interview that she wanted Siddi people to become engineers and do other work than labouring. She said,
I dream that not all Siddi will be labourers and that one day a young person will knock on my door and ask for help to become an engineer”
- She has helped more than 700 women to study, work, and achieve financial independence.
- She has been awarded by many organisations and honoured by several people for her work including Amitabh Bachchan and Mukesh Ambani.