Dagny Arbman was a pioneer in international solidarity work and a driving force in Svalorna (The Swallows). She founded and ran Svalorna’s India section.
Dagny Arbman was born in Söderhamn in 1908. She was the daughter of the author Tullia and the engineer Hjalmar Ljungh. In 1932 she married Holger Arbman, who was a professor of archaeology. The couple had three daughters together. The family followed the Protestant faith but in the 1940s Dagny Arbman converted to Catholicism.
Dagny Arbman had a Bachelor of Arts and was a textiles teacher by profession. She also worked as a textile instructor at Handarbetets Vänner (Friends of Handicrafts) and was an author and translator. Her book Gobelänger och andra vävda tapeter was published in 1950 and she also translated several works on India and aid work in India from French into Swedish.
In 1959 Dagny Arbman founded the religiously and politically neutral non-profit association Svalorna together with her friend and colleague Suzanne Sandberg. Svalorna focused on running projects in less developed countries, with the aim of working on behalf of and with the local populations in order to improve their living conditions. The work was carried out by Swedish youths, who were sent out for a couple of years’ unpaid voluntary service in the slums of India and Peru. There they set up and ran projects on improving the health service, childcare and basic education as well as career development workshops. Svalorna was established as part of the Swedish Emmaus-movement, which had been inspired by a visit from a French Catholic priest, Abbé Pierre, who had founded Emmaus in France in the late 1940s. Dagny Arbman had visited India in the 1950s, and in 1960 she initiated Svalorna’s activities there. Suzanne Sandberg was responsible for the volunteers and their activities in Peru while Dagny Arbman was responsible for the Indian section. Later, the India section would also encompass Bangladesh. In 1962 the first volunteers went off to India and largely worked in the Cherian Nagar area in the northern outskirts of Madras (today Chennai). Between 1962 and 1977 Dagny Arbman was the chair of the Svalorna India-Bangladesh section. In the early 1970s she represented India in the then newly-established coordinating organisation Emmaus International. Dagny Arbman was active in the Svalorna India-Bangladesh section as honorary chair right up until her death.
During the 1970s Dagny Arbman was also one of the founders of Mother Theresa’s organisation Missionaries of Charity, where she was also an active member. She and the Svalorna association received a medal from the Albert Schweitzer trust in recognition of her humanitarian work.
Dagny Arbman died in Lund in 1997.