CENTRE FOR WOMEN’S DEVELOPMENT AND RESEARCH
Education to Empower 500 Women and Adolescent Girls
Update – May 2010
This is an important period for us, we have extended our activities to 24 villages of Edaikazhinadu Panchayath, that is 18 new villages and 6 fishing villages where we have been implementing Tsunami rehabilitation activities. In the city area we have been continuing our activities in the same 6 fishing villages. In the fishing villages women know that we are continuing our work there beyond Tsunami rehabilitation work so there is good relationship with the women in these villages. This is just not an extension of working area the focus is also switched over from Tsunami rehabilitation to women’s development. It is during our Tsunami rehabilitation work we have realized the issues of single women and in our new working area the focus is more on the issues of single women. In all our activities like trainings and income generation activities single women are given preference. We are also continuing our life skill and sexuality education among adolescent girls.
Education and Income Generation programme for Women: Our initial task was to explain our work to the women and villagers of new villages because they were expecting us to implement activities like Tsunami rehabilitation work. Initially our staff members organized village level meetings and also conducted village surveys using PRA-Participatory Rural Appraisal methods. But Edaikazhinadu Panchayath is an unique area because here the houses are scattered and not crowed or houses arranged in lanes. So gathering people is slightly difficult so our field workers walked long distances to meet people to explain our work and also to get information from them. We already had sent you the details of Edaikazhinadu area. One of the advantages in this area is because the houses are scattered each house has few trees like coconut, jack fruit, mango, neem etc.
We have organized weekend leadership training programmes for women We have organized 10 such trainings and each training is attended by 20-25 omen. The impact of these trainings are tangible now, in the fishing villages women are given importance in community matters, they started telling their opinions, they also go to government offices, bank and other places. Earlier women were not allowed to go for any meetings, women also tell that they have to look after husband and children, but now they are attending the meetings. So now the family members have to make small adjustments like may be they have serve their food, clean the vessels, bring children from schools, bring water. Even though these are small changes, women are getting their own time and space to discuss about their issues. They also make decisions about their children’s education and marriage. We have also organized men’s meeting in these villages and issues like violence against women, girls children’s education, marriage age and dowry systems were discussed. Still there is some resistance among men but still they understand that they are the problem and solution for women’s issues, most of them are now willing to educate their girl children. Changes in dowry system and marriage age will take time.
We have been continuing our income generation programme for women. During this period we have organized entrepreneurship skill training and also training in different income generation activities like food processing, palm leaf product making, nursery raising, handicrafts and jewellary making. Nearly 160 women participated in these trainings and out of which 140 are single women (widows and destitute women). All these women were also given loans through their SHG-Self help groups to initiate their own business or to strengthen their business activities.
A single women beneficiary selling fruits
Life skill and Sexuality Education for Adolescent girls: We have organized regular weekend workshops, these workshops are organized during Saturdays and Sundays. Nearly 300 girls and 50 boys participated in these programmes. After this programme the girls are motivated to initiate ‘Snehidhi’ an association for adolescent girls in their villages. Working with boys is a new experience for us, it is also encouraging. Actually we have planned some combined workshop for girls and boys but after organizing two workshops we realized we are not ready for it, the adolescents are also not ready for it. We also conducted sexuality education in 8 schools – 3 in Chennai and 5 Edaikazhinadu panchayat
Adolescent girls learning folk dance
We are providing computer skill training and dress making training in our Paniyur and Neelangarai centres. In addition to that trainings on handicrafts like basket making, jewels making were also organized. We found out that these kinds of short term trainings also helps the school going children, that gives a discipline of mind, helps to bring out their creative skills and that helps in their studies. Career guidance meetings are also organized where they learned the options available for them after 10th and 12th standard like the short term training courses like home nursing, beautician, computer hardware service, cell phone service, sales girls, IT enabled services, apprenticeships and open university courses. But most of these things are actually helpful for the city girls for the village girls they get the information but the real opportunities of training and employment is not available in their villages.
Exposure visit to a soap making unit
Most of the adolescents expressed a need of supplementary education particularly in Mathematics, science and English. We have books guides for students above 8th standard we also have DVDs in those subjects, that they can use it and learn it. In addition to that our coordinators also help individual basis to prepare and pass their high school examinations so that they will not drop out of schools and end of in marriage. Adolescent girls also went for exposure visits, the village girls visited Pondicherry and also Chennai to get some idea about different careers. Chennai city girls also visited Industrial estate and different polytechnics.
We take this opportunity to thank all our donors, volunteers and wellwishers, who supported in our attempt to educate and empower women and adolescent girls. We are looking for help in strengthening our income generation activities for women, we need volunteers, money and also suggestions to strengthen our income generation activities, we request your support in this regard, if you are interested in helping us please contact us.
Centre for Women’s Development and Research
Education to Empower 500 Women and Adolescent Girls
Update – October 2009
Nearly five years have gone after the Tsunami Disaster, in fact outside people have forgotten the Tsunami disaster. When comparing to the destruction of Tsunami disaster we wonder how people could able to rebuild their lives soon, it is all because people from around the world who supported the affected people, telling them they are concerned about them and they are not alone. It is the support from concerned people around the world gives us lot of hope and confidence to carry on our work. In the process of rehabilitation work the best thing happened is women got visibility and recognition in the fishing community, otherwise they are not consulted for anything. Now women’s groups in the villages plan an active role in the village development, most of their children particularly girl children attend schools. Now we are focusing more on women’s issues in the villages.
During 2009 we continued our income generation programme for women, and lifeskill and sexuality education for adolescent girls.
Income generation programme for Women: During this period we have provided income generation activities training in palm leaf product making, nursery raising, vermi-composte making, food processing and soap and cleaning solution making. Nearly 200 women participated in these trainings, out of which 160 are single women (Widows and destitute women). Single women’s SHG-Self help groups were formed in 12 villages and 150 women were given loans to start their own business or to strengthen their present business activities like selling fish, vegetables and fruit, cloth selling, Eatables selling. These self help groups also serves as a forum to share their experiences and feelings. We still have to provide further training to improve the quality of the products and also help them in marketing. We are looking for some volunteers with business management background to help us in this regard.
We have installed solar power system in our training centre to tackle the power cut in our state. This also serves as a model for village people to understand the environmental issues, global warming and alternative sources of power.
Life skill and sexuality education for adolescents: We are continuing our life skill and sexuality education for adolescent girls, during this period we have also started working with adolescent boys. We conducted regular weekend workshops for adolescent girls nearly 250 adolesent girls and 60 boys benefitted from these programmes. In addition to that we are also conducting regular computer skill training and tailoring training. School going girls get supplementary education support. We have also organized classes in dance, music and street play.
Future plan: We are happy about our achievements, but at the same time we still have to go miles to achieve women’s equality. Another area we wish to concentrate is the income generation activities. In the present set up they earn between Rs.1000-2000 per month it is not enough. We have to expand the business activities make it an enterprise where women earn more. For that we have to improve the quality of the product we also have to expand he scale of the business. We need more capital money and also people to initiate and strengthen these business. We are planning to start palm product making- There is lot of palm trees in this area, food processing- there is also lot of fruit trees like Mango, jack fruit and cashew nut trees and soap making. We are also planning to start a community college for adolescents to continue our vocational skill training activities.
Women’s Rights are Human Rights
Let’s Together Make it a Reality
This is Clare Rutz reporting from Chennai, India.
India is a paradox. There is the modern, wealthy, and educated side, but then there is the side where women are married off at the age of fourteen, living in slums, and allowed to leave only in their husband’s company. I managed to experience both extremes of India, but the latter version was the bit that added some shock value to my trip. I will never again under appreciate the Women’s Rights Movement and what was accomplished in order for me to be viewed as an equal.
In India too there are those who are making vital efforts to give women their rights, while creating awareness about gender issues. Domestic violence is not uncommon in India, and as I was trying to dig a little deeper into this societal issue, an Indian woman fighting to stop abuse explains to me that, “India’s culture holds family as a sacred thing, so women understand that violence is wrong, but when her husband hits her its not something that you go against”.
I met this woman and many others working towards the same mission at The Center for Women’s Development and Research. The non-profit rents out an apartment in Chennai and somehow cram a staff of more than twenty into the tiny space. The Center works with the women in fishing villages outside of the city where loans are allocated to start businesses and vocational training is also provided. I was invited to attend a meeting where a handful of the women affected by these programs come and talk about their progress and obstacles. We meet in a small room with three computers lining the wall which the women take classes on to learn basic computer skills.
The discussion begins, and they look to me for a question. GlobalGiving funded a project that provided services to the children of these women in this room after the tsunami hit. So I ask, “How has your life today changed because of the tsunami?” Apparently I just asked an easy question. They all begin answering at the same time, but the translation encompasses all their concerns. “The fish are gone. We have no work.” Donor countries respond quickly and generously to a crisis, but after that initial relief we often forget how lasting the effects of such a natural disaster can be.
The vocational training became an instant success after the wives could no longer sell fish at the market. The women needed to create a good that could be sold in order to fill that void created by the tsunami. That’s where The Center for Women’s Development and Research comes in. We continue to talk about the crafts they’ve learned and why the computer classes are beneficial, but the more interesting bit came after the official meeting was over.
All the women gathered around the door trying to speak with the director. The voice of the group began in a confrontational tone, and so I quickly asked my translator what she was saying. The products were being made, but the demand for handmade paper bags was just not there. “Why can’t we export?” was the question that needed answering. Without the issue being thoroughly addressed we all piled back into the van and I asked the director, “So why can’t you export?” Turns out there are lots of reasons. Firstly, the consistency of quality is lacking and a much larger quantity needs to be produced for the goods to be exported.
Microfinancing has received an overwhelming positive response from the developing world, but with every new policy there are flaws. Flaws that fortunately can be addressed, but many new projects are only now introducing microfinancing because of the buzz, and the details haven’t been worked out quite yet. These women are willing to work hard and responsibly, but to have a vocational skill is one thing, and to have the skills of an entrepreneur is another. Is it the new expected role for these non-profits such as The Center for Women’s Development and Research to act as a business by collecting their goods and distributing them where there is a demand?
The Center’s accomplishments are clear in regards to gender rights, but it has also left me with many thoughts about the much talked about microfinance boom. We’re on the right track by giving tools rather than food, but the details that will vary in every community need to be addressed.
When asked what she would tell her friends about this project, Clare said: "Good project."